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Object and scope of the Radiocommunications Act 1992

This page provides information about the object, scope and application of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act), and about certain matters to which, or persons to whom, the Act does not apply.

Object of the Act

The object of the Act is to provide for management of the radiofrequency spectrum in order to:

  1. maximise, by ensuring the efficient allocation and use of the spectrum, the overall public benefit derived from using the radiofrequency spectrum
  2. make adequate provision of the spectrum for use by public or community services
  3. provide a responsive and flexible approach to meeting the needs of users of the spectrum
  4. encourage the use of efficient radiocommunication technologies so that a wide range of services of an adequate quality can be provided
  5. provide an efficient, equitable and transparent system of charging for the use of spectrum, taking account of the value of both commercial and non-commercial use of spectrum
  6. support the communications policy objectives of the Commonwealth Government
  7. provide a regulatory environment that maximises opportunities for the Australian communications industry in domestic and international markets
  8. promote Australia's interests concerning international agreements, treaties and conventions relating to radiocommunications or the radiofrequency spectrum

Scope of the Act

Part 1.4 of the Act explains the application of the Act. It outlines the scope of the Act's operation, and the situations in which that operation is extended or restricted. This includes:

  • that the Crown is bound by the Act in all its capacities and that the Crown is not liable to be prosecuted for an offence
  • how questions of location affect the application of the Act
  • bringing certain activities within the concept of radiocommunication for the purposes of the Act
  • providing for certain situations and activities that are exempt from the operation of the Act

Provisions relating to location

Division 2 of Part 1.4 of the Act details where the Act applies in relation to the continent of Australia. In brief, the Act extends to:

  • all the external Territories
  • areas adjacent to the States and Territories, extending only in respect of exploration or exploitation of the continental shelf of Australia or of an external Territory
  • foreign space objects, in the circumstances specified in a written determination by the ACMA
  • the atmosphere and outer space above Australia

The Act applies outside Australia, but only in relation to:

  • Australian citizens ordinarily resident in Australia, in respect of radio transmissions intended to be received in Australia (other than those made by a genuine member of the crew of a foreign vessel, foreign aircraft or foreign space object in the course of his or her duties, or those made from a foreign country by a person in the performance of a duty imposed by the law of that country)
  • members of the crews of Australian aircraft, Australian vessels and Australian space objects
  • Australian aircraft, Australian space objects and Australian vessels
  • exploration or exploitation of the continental shelf of Australia or of an external Territory

The Act also, without limitation outside Australia (whether or not in a foreign country), prohibits broadcasting radio and television programs to the general public from foreign vessels or aircraft, without the ACMA's written permission. The use of a transmitter from foreign vessels, aircraft or space objects in a manner that is likely to interfere substantially with radiocommunications within Australia, or between a place in Australia and a place outside Australia, is also prohibited.

Extending the concept of radiocommunication

Division 3 of Part 1.4 of the Act extends the concept of radiocommunications. Section 6 of the Act is defined as radio emission or reception of radio emission for the purpose of communicating information between persons and persons, or persons and things or things and things. In brief, the Act extends radiocommunications to include:

  • radio transmissions and transmitters for the purpose of measurement
  • astronomical and meteorological observations
  • the operation of lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys

When does the Act not apply?

Division 4 of Part 1.4 of the Act details matters to which the Act does not apply. They include:

  • foreign space objects (except in accordance with an ACMA determination)
  • radiocommunications transmitters or receivers on board a foreign vessel that is travelling, or is in transit (whether in or outside Australia) on a voyage
  • radiocommunications transmitters or receivers on board a foreign aircraft that is travelling, or is in transit (whether in or outside Australia) on a voyage

Persons to whom the Act does not apply include:

  • members of the Defence Force and officers of the Department of Defence in relation to the performance of his or her functions or duties which relate to defence research and intelligence
  • persons performing a function or duty in relation to the operation of a facility that is jointly operated by the Commonwealth and a foreign country, and is a special defence undertaking for the purposes of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952

Persons to whom Parts 3.1, 4.1 and 4.2 of the Act do not apply

The following Parts of the Act do not apply to certain persons in certain circumstances.

Part 3.1 of the Act prohibits unlicensed radiocommunications, except in emergency situations, and allows for civil proceedings to be taken against persons in some circumstances.

Part 4.1 of the Act:

  • imposes prohibitions relating to non-standard devices
  • allows the ACMA to make standards for devices (including their radio emissions)
  • enables the ACMA to issue permits to authorise the operation of non-standard devices and specifies the circumstances in which the ACMA may do so
  • enables the ACMA to require that devices be labelled to indicate whether they comply with standards or class licences
  • enables devices to be prohibited because of their effect on radiocommunications

Part 4.2 of the Act defines offences relating to radio emissions, and contains relevant offence provisions particularly those aimed at containing various kinds of interference with radiocommunications.

Under what circumstances do those Parts of the Act not apply?

These Parts of the Act do not apply to anything done, or not done, by a member of the Defence Force, or by an officer of the Department of Defence, where:

  • the act or omission takes place in the performance of his or her functions or duties
  • the function or duty concerned is, under the Radiocommunications Regulations taken to relate to military command and control, or intelligence, or weapons systems

Radiocommunications Regulation 6 is in place to reflect that Parts 3.1, 4.1 and 4.2 of the Act do not apply in these circumstances.

The Radiocommunications Regulations may provide exemption of acts or omissions from these Parts of the Act for members of a class of persons performing a function or duty in relation to:

  • defence, security or international relations of Australia, or a foreign country whose Defence Force is acting in cooperation with the Defence Force of Australia
  • Federal, State or Territory Police Forces
  • firefighting, civil defence or rescue organisations
  • ambulance services
  • the Royal Flying Doctor Service
  • any other organisation whose sole or principal purpose involves securing the safety of persons during an emergency

At present, there are no Radiocommunications Regulations in force that provide such an exemption.

Parts 3.1, 4.1 and 4.2 do not apply to anything done by the ACMA in connection with the use of a device in performing its functions or exercising its powers under the Act.

Further information

Please refer to the Act for details about the specific provisions mentioned in this information paper.

If you have any queries relating to this document, please contact us.

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