NSW Bill to Modernise Government Telecommunications Structure

Thursday 25 October 2018 @ 10.47 a.m. | Legal Research

The Government Telecommunications Bill 2018 (NSW) (‘the Bill’), which is currently being considered by the NSW Legislative Assembly, aims to reform and update the governmental telecommunications network in NSW. The Bill proposes to do this by establishing a streamlined communications authority for government agencies in NSW.

Background

The Bill was initially released for public consultation as an exposure draft in relation to the proposed establishment of the New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority and associated advisory board, access to and acquisition of infrastructure. The Government accepted submissions until 27 August 2018. Analysis and research was conducted on the current legislation, the Government Telecommunications Act 1991 (NSW) as part of the consultation process.

The objectives of the proposed Bill were to ensure that the modern and updated role of the NSW Telco Authority was appropriately reflected in statute. The NSW Telco Authority manages the Government Radio Network (GRN). As noted in the Information and Issues Paper as part of the draft explanatory material:

‘The GRN was established to consolidate all existing separate government networks into one shared network, ensuring greater coverage and reliability than if each entity/agency had its own independent communication system. This is not only cost effective for the NSW Government but also allows intercommunication or ‘interoperability’ between PSAs and other entities of relevance to public health and safety in times of national or state emergency (e.g. bushfires, severe storms, floods, major transport incidents) where fast, reliable communications are essential for the protection of lives and property.’

Main Objectives of the Bill

The Bill aims to:

  • Establish the New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority to create a network for operational communication services for the government agencies;
  • Establish the New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority Advisory Board;
  • Establish the requirement that government sector agencies must use the network for operational communications;
  • Create a new offence of interference with the network access provided by the  New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority.

In his second reading speech, the Minister for Finances, Services and Property, Victor Dominello stated that there would be certain benefits in establishing a single shared network:

‘For the past 20 years, however, New South Wales government agencies and essential services have typically built and operated separate radio networks in addition to the GRN. As a result, law enforcement and public safety agencies, along with a large number of other agencies, operate their own radio networks. Some networks make sense to be separate. However, the Government does not regard the existence of both the GRN and other agency radio networks as an optimal use of resources. It is also not the best way to deliver superior public safety outcomes to the people of New South Wales.’

He also commented on the importance of updating the previous legislation, the Government Telecommunications Act 1991 (NSW):

‘A question may be asked about why the new Act is required. The answer is that a review of the Government Telecommunications Act 1991 was approved in 2017. Mobile phones were not even around in 1991 when the parent Act was enacted, which almost makes it a rhetorical question. The new Act is required because it is more than 25 years old and definitely needs updating.’

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

Government Telecommunications Bill 2018 (NSW), and associated second reading speech and explanatory memorandum, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

[Draft] Government Telecommunications Bill 2018 Information and Issues Paper, July 2018.

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