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Improving regional mobile phone infrastructure: report published

FINDING collaborative ways to fund improvements and encourage greater sharing of mobile phone infrastructure to provide better, more competitive access to digital services across regional and remote Australia is the focus of a report Connecting the country: Mission critical released today by the House Communications and the Arts Committee.

The parliamentary inquiry into co-investment in regional mobile carrier infrastructure heard a wide range of evidence from state and territory governments, Indigenous communities and First Nations media, business chambers, councils, health services, mine companies, tourism operators, farmers and agri-business, fire, police and emergency services and community groups on how essential mobile coverage is, and how detrimental a lack of coverage can be for day to day life and operations.

The committee also heard how perilous these mobile black spots can be during emergencies, police operations or road accidents in regional areas.

Recommendations made by the committee focussed on how the Australian Government can encourage more co-investment by mobile network operators and sharing of mobile towers to address the challenges of improving coverage and competition across Australia’s wide expanse, including:

  • developing and implementation of a practical universal service obligation for mobile telecommunications service providers;
  • facilitating roundtable meetings between NBN Co and mobile telecommunications industry representatives with Rewiring the Nation program planners to ascertain the potential to co-locate telecommunications infrastructure along renewable electricity transmission routes planned for regional and remote Australia;
  • establishing a working group involving state and territory governments, emergency services agencies, and mobile network operators to develop protocols for temporary roaming arrangements in declared disasters and emergencies;
  • reviewing the implications of non-use and area-wide licensing for the allocation, management, and use of spectrum for the provision of regional telecommunications services;
  • assessing the merits of including licence conditions on mobile network owners and other spectrum licensees of terms and conditions that mandate open access and active sharing solutions;
  • evaluating the objectives and guidelines of the Mobile Black Spot Program to ensure it remains fit for purpose;
  • establishing a trial program to fund mobile-carrier infrastructure in specific regional and remote geographical areas with a mandate for open access through active or passive sharing to any funded infrastructure;
  • developing a trial program to fund infrastructure to support multi-carrier mobile network sharing models at locations on major roads in regional and remote areas with limited or no network coverage;
  • leading development of a Regional Australia Mobile Telecommunications Strategy in consultation with state, territory and local governments to consider the trends and demands of regional growth and identify regions and growth corridors;
  • facilitating the harmonisation of planning and environmental regulations for new mobile infrastructure across regional, rural and remote Australia;
  • investigating and funding targeted, place-based solutions for providing reliable and secure access to telecommunications services in remote Indigenous communities, including, but not limited to:
    • deployment of wi-fi mesh networks or wi-fi hotspots, and
    • use of Low Earth Orbit satellite services.

Committee Chair, Brian Mitchell MP, outlined the majority of mobile infrastructure was not co-located, especially in regional areas, despite many years of significant government investment.

"The committee held hearings and roundtables to better understand why the rates of co-location for Australia’s major mobile providers dramatically declines as they move from urban to more regional and remote areas," Mr Mitchell said.

"The committee believes promoting co-investment remains a tool to encourage multiple telecommunications providers to invest in and share ‘multi-carrier’ mobile towers to improve the range and reliability of their services in regional and remote areas. But in this increasingly digital age it is important the government continue to develop alternative strategies to attract mobile network operators and tower companies to invest in assisting the many people living in regional, remote and even fast-growing peri-urban areas without any or poor access to phone and digital services."

Over the course of the inquiry, the committee held 17 public hearings in Canberra, Launceston, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth, Sydney and Geelong, in addition to receiving 43 written submissions from individuals, organisations and government bodies.

The committee thanked all those who took part in the inquiry by providing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings or roundtables.

The full report may be found on the committee’s webpage.



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PJCIS to review relisting of two terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code

THE Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has commenced a review of the relisting of Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin and Islamic State Khorasan Province as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Criminal Code).

Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) is an al-Qa’ida aligned Salafi-Jihadist organisation based in Mali and active in West Africa. JNIM was first listed as a terrorist organisation in 2020 following the merger of the terrorist organisation al-Murabitun into JNIM. Since its listing in 2020, JNIM has conducted attacks against both foreign and state security forces, striving to build a Salafi-Islamic state.

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) is a violent extremist group that also adheres to Salafi jihadist ideology. Since its relisting in 2020, the organisation has shifted its strategic operation towards urban warfare in Afghanistan and parts of north-west Pakistan, promoting itself as a globally motivated jihadist group committed to establishing a global caliphate.

The relisting of the two organisations triggers the ongoing application of a number of offences under the Criminal Code relating to membership of, support for, or association with the organisations.

Section 102.1A of the Criminal Code provides that the committee may review listings of terrorist organisations and report its findings to each house of Parliament within the 15 sitting day disallowance period.

Members of the public are welcome to make submissions to this review. Submissions should be provided no later than Thursday, November 23, 2023.

Further information on the inquiry can be obtained from the committee’s website.



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Intelligence and Security Committee supports ban on Nazi symbols

THE Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has presented its advisory report on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023.

The Bill would amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 to:

  • create offences for publicly displaying prohibited Nazi or Islamic State symbols, and trading in items bearing these symbols;
  • create offences for using a carriage service to deal with violent extremist material;
  • strengthen the offence of advocating terrorism; and
  • remove the three-year sunsetting of terrorist organisation listings, so that listings would operate until a decision is made to proactively de-list an organisation.

The committee made a number of recommendations to amend the Bill including:

  • removal of the specific reference to the Islamic State flag as a prohibited hate symbol, instead prohibiting symbols associated with all proscribed terrorist organisations; and
  • delaying the entry into force of offences for the trading of items bearing a prohibited symbol for a period of 6-12 months, so that collectors have a window in which to dispose of part or all of their collections if they wish.

The committee concluded that, subject to the amendments it has recommended, the Bill should be passed by the Parliament.

PJCIS Chair, Peter Khalil MP, said, “The committee supports measures that prohibit the public display and trade of symbols that represent ideologies of hatred, violence and racism; which cause significant harm to many Australians. These ideologies are incompatible with Australia’s multicultural and democratic society.”

Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.   



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Audit Committee tables Annual Report 2022-23

THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit today tabled its Annual Report for 2022-23.

Committee Chair, Julian Hill MP, said, “Annual Reports obviously are very exciting, and tabling one in the parliament is both a delight and an annual statutory obligation of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.”

This report outlines the work the committee has undertaken in 2022–23 in accordance with its responsibilities under the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 and other relevant legislation.

The committee is an important part of the Parliament's effort to provide oversight and transparency to the work of Australian Government agencies.

The committee reviews all reports of the Australian National Audit Office and conducts inquiries where it identifies issues requiring further consideration. It determines the audit priorities of the Parliament and makes recommendations to Government on the budget estimates of the Audit Office and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

In 2022–23 the committee met 29 times and held 18 public hearings. It commenced eight inquiries and presented five reports. It also considered the budget estimates of the Audit Office and the Parliamentary Budget Office for the 2023–24 budget.

The committee’s inquiries examined a broad range of topics, including Foreign Affairs and Trade’s crisis management arrangements; Commonwealth procurement, administration of Commonwealth grants; the 2021–22 Commonwealth financial statements; and Defence major projects.

Mr Hill said, “I would like to thank those who were members of the committee in 2022–23 for the spirit in which they approached the committee's work and the dedication they applied to it.

“Finally, the committee secretariat deserve lashings of praise for the outstanding quality of the work they do and their professionalism. This includes the staff of the Parliament and the highly valued secondees from the Australian National Audit Office.”

The report and further information about the committee is available on the Committee website.



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Approach to Australia’s trade negotiations inquiry heads to Melbourne

THE Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth will hold a public hearing in Melbourne on Friday, November 3, for its inquiry into the Australian Government's approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements.

The committee will hear from stakeholders including unions, the red meat industry, business associations and the Productivity Commission.

This builds on the hearings recently held in Canberra with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, agriculture peak bodies, animal welfare organisations, cultural industries representatives, and academics among others.

The inquiry is focussing on how the Australian Government develops a negotiating mandate and framework that reflects whole of government priorities, as well as priorities for State and Territory Governments, businesses and workers, including processes for consultation. It is also considering how to ensure agreements advance Australia’s national and cultural interests, and that First Nations Australians can participate and benefit in trade.

Committee Chair, Steve Georganas MP said, "The committee has received a high number of quality submissions to the inquiry and is looking forward to hearing further from key stakeholders to understand how the approach taken to negotiating trade and investment agreements could be improved to ensure these agreements are of greatest benefit to the Australian community."

Further information about the inquiry, including the terms of reference, published submissions and hearing transcripts, are available on the inquiry webpage.

Public hearing details

Date: Friday, 3 November 2023Time: 9.30am to 3.20pm (AEDT)Location: Legislative Council Committee Room 1, Parliament House, Melbourne

The hearing will be broadcast live at

The Committee intends to hold more public hearings in due course.



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