Adjusting to the 'new normal'

Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

By Hamish Duff, President, ARCIA
Monday, 04 May, 2020



Adjusting to the 'new normal'

In my last article I wrote that the bushfires across Australia were the most devastating event imaginable. It seems like 12 months ago now. The really hard part is that the communities so badly affected by the fires were all looking forward to mid-year bookings to bring some funds in, but, as we have seen, the COVID-19 isolation guidelines have robbed them of the travelling public. It must be so hard for them.

The impact of COVID-19 on our country is profound, and yet we are the lucky ones — when we consider the problems that have besieged the rest of the world, our difficulties are not quite so bad. However, there is one area that ARCIA is very concerned about, and that is the retention of technical staff. The federal government’s JobKeeper scheme to enable employers to retain their staff is important, and as we come out of the depths of the economic downturn all those technicians and technical staff are going to prove vital.

Since the outbreak began, ARCIA has been in regular contact with the ACMA about the impact on the communications industry. While many ARCIA members are involved with ‘essential services’, there are also members who are focused on the event and hire sectors… and like so many others, they have been particularly badly affected.

Initially we had concerns that many users would simply not pay their licence renewals and that this would result in many cancelled licences and high levels of confusion as we came out of the other side, plus a high workload for all involved in spectrum management. ARCIA has written to the ACMA and the federal Minister for Communications about the apparatus licence fees, pointing out that they are a major cost that could be delayed while we get through the effects of COVID-19. We would like to thank the ACMA for listening to our position and we note the ACMA did quickly set up a helpline and processes for any licence holder who needed assistance with spectrum fees. This is just one of the ways in which ARCIA can help our industry and many other industries to recover and help our nation grow again, and a reflection of how wireless communications is an essential service.

For many members who provide those essential services, the challenge is how to operate under a ‘new normal’, protect staff and ensure networks and systems keep working. The ARCIA committee, recognising the potential difficulties, has therefore decided to limit our events to minimise expenditure for our members. As a result the annual dinners in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide have all been cancelled, and our premier event in Melbourne is under a ‘watch and act’ status — if we can justify it, then we will run it.

There has also been a decision to extend Association memberships and partnerships into the new financial year to keep member and partner expenses as low as possible. We recognise that when things are tight every dollar counts, and by extending memberships our members will continue to get the benefits from being part of the group without having to compromise other outlays.

On a final note, the Western Australia events back in March were well attended and the Comms Connect conference offered some great topics and content — but what a great pity that there was basically no radiocommunications content. If our suppliers and our members want the radiocommunications industry to continue and thrive, then we must provide relevant content for our industry conference, Comms Connect — it is our collective responsibility!

As we have worked our way through these difficult times it has become apparent that there are still many issues where ARCIA is working on behalf of its members, and the fight for our industry and our spectrum continues. I hope you stay safe and well through this pandemic and I hope soon we can return to some kind of normal.

Hamish Duff

President

Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

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