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Telecoms changes could further erode LG powers

In its submission to the Department of Communications and Arts the LGAQ have said there is little evidence to support the proposed changes presented in the telecommunications carrier and immunities consultation paper.Mobile phone tower. Photo: ABC news

The changes, put forward by the Federal Government in June this year, would give telecommunications carriers greater powers to install infrastructure on existing public infrastructure.

The changes would mean cabling and conduits could be installed on bridges as low-impact facilities; open trenches up to 200m long could also be common place in residential areas.

The proposed amendments to the Low Impact Facilities Determination (LIFD) would also see poles of up to 12 metres high and 500mm in diameter considered low-impact facilities and would grant Telcos the ability to install portable temporary communications facilities without local government planning approval.

In its submission, the LGAQ said the proposed changes were ill founded and presented an additional burden to councils and could compromise safety of the travelling public.

“Local government is already significantly impacted by the powers and immunities provided to telecommunications carriers under the Telecommunications Act 1997”. The submission said.

“There is very little evidence presented in the Possible amendments to telecommunications carrier and immunities consultation paper to support a substantial reduction in notification periods and limiting the opportunity for objections to be lodged by councils.”

Under current laws telecommunications carriers are already granted certain powers and immunities. Carriers can enter land (including public spaces in buildings) for inspection purposes and to install and maintain specified types of telecommunications network facilities. Carriers are also provided with immunities from certain State/Territory based planning laws and regulations.

The telecommunications sector has urged the Government to move quickly to implementation following that consultation period claiming that research estimates have shown there would be economic and social productivity benefits of $50 million per annum and regulatory cost savings of $100 million.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the proposed changes would streamline processes,

"The changes seek to clarify the operation of some existing powers and immunities, allow for the deployment of new types of network infrastructure, make changes to some existing facility types, and streamline notification and objection rules." Minister Fifield said in a statement released in June.

Submissions to the consultation paper closed on July 21.