Public submissions now open on robocall bill

Public submissions now open on robocall bill

A Centre Alliance Bill aimed at tightening the rules around political robocalls and unwanted charity calls is now open for public comment.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019 was introduced by Senator Stirling Griff last week and has now been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for an inquiry.

Stakeholders and interested members of the public have until 21 February 2020 to lodge submissions before a final report is expected to be tabled in mid-April 2020.

If the Bill is adopted, consumers who register on the Do Not Call Register will be able to opt-out of receiving phone calls from charities and political parties would be required to provide an unsubscribe function for all unsolicited electronic communications containing political content.

Political parties would also have to identify if they were using actors at the beginning of any voice call communicating an electoral matter.

“Centre Alliance wants to stop unscrupulous 'charities' from targeting vulnerable older Australians and we want voters to be able to choose to opt-out of political robocalls,” said Rebekha, the Centre Alliance Federal MP for Mayo.

“We also believe 'actors' should be identified as such in campaign calls.

“I know from my own experience during elections that there were occasions when voters in my electorate contacted my office because they thought they were receiving political robocalls from me when that was not the case. They were clearly receiving calls from another party using an actor.

“I certainly know that in my community people are unhappy about nuisance calls from charities and political parties and want the harassment to stop.

“I encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to put in a submission.”

In his speech to Parliament, Senator Griff said his Bill gave back some of the power to the people.

“It seeks to give consumers and voters more control over unsolicited electronic and telephone communication from political parties and registered charities, which currently enjoy broad exemptions from laws that otherwise prohibit or limit telemarketing calls and spam messages,” Senator Griff said.

“This problem was highlighted most recently when Mr Clive Palmer spammed voters nationally with SMS messages, prompting hundreds of complaints to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

“It is not the first time this has happened and, unless the measures in this Bill pass, it will not be the last.

“We know voters are unhappy about receiving these SMS messages, but ACMA is largely powerless to act on these complaints.

“This Bill seeks to address this situation, and to do so in a way that strikes a balance between the rights of consumers and the implied freedom of political communication protected by the Constitution.”