ACMA Approach to Market –Analysis by Andrew VK6AS

The ACMA have released the tender documents for Amateur Radio assessments, call sign allocation and related services.

The 111 page Approach to Market or ATM is a solid read and is both interesting and also somewhat disappointing in its contents.

Earlierin the year the ACMA asked for comments on a discussion paper on the future ofAmateur Radio Assessment.  I am not alone in commenting that the Authority appeared to disregard the almost unanimous condemnation of the requirement to be governed by a Registered Training Organisation ( RTO) and in its response chose their pre-selected first pathway that although allowing for the possibility of a non RTO model, really made it clear that for whatever reasons that was the path they were determined to take.

The ATM is a retraction from that position, not completely but significantly.  Basically, if a tenderer is not an RTO that is not a stumbling block, nor do they have to engage with an RTO, as was previously suggested, but they must confirm the methodology that the duties demanded of an RTO will be performed, exactly as if they were an RTO.  This includes financial and educational auditand the development of a Syllabus Review Panel, membership of which is controlled by the ACMA.

The tenderer is required to provide the core statutory services of examination and certification services on a cost recovery and cost neutral basis to the Authority, but would be entitled to, put rather crudely, “make a profit” on non-statutory services that is administration, call sign recommendation and database services, recognition of prior learning, fee related services, that is examination fees and some other items. All to be provided within Government guidelines so that the hobby has some protection from “price gouging”.

This is all very similar to the current deed with the WIA and outsourcing to Silverdale/Trainsafe, the private companies that have run this service for the last ten years.

The remainder of the document consists of tables and important information to the tenderer on the current rules, regulations and practices that are performed today.  There is nothing new and they somewhat rather crudely have used an un-modified WIA financial reporting spreadsheet as a template.  There is little innovative apart from the forming of the Syllabus Review Panel, on which the only AR members are nominees of the Wireless Institute, with no mention of any selection process.

The second document is essentially the application form with hints!  In my view the significant parts of this are the ability of the tenderer to meet the ACMA’s requirements and to show a proven capacity to do so, including the skill sets and even names of the personnel to be involved, together with referee reports.  It is clear that the ACMA is expecting professionalism, expertise and a high level of efficiency.  Significantly, the tenderer must provide a detailed cost recovery fee schedule.

It is clear that the current contract holder has the experience in what is a niche field, but it has been shown to have problems in certain areas.  There are other agencies with a relevant skill set, but they certainly don’t have direct amateur radio administrative experience.

The tender process closed on the 26th November and a panel will consider the tenders.  The construction of this panel is secret, but it is highly unlikely that there will be any Amateur input and most likely that it will be kept strictly within the ACMA.

We can only wait and see what happens and look forwards to whatever is decided.  It is unfortunate that the ACMA has not seized on this required change to be innovative and actually put into place the procedures and processes that the consumers have been asking for.  In the vernacular it looks like “same old, same old”, but in common with all things governmental there will be an increase in cost to the end user, that’s you and me and far more importantly to those wanting to get into our wonderful hobby.

Andrew VK6AS Administrative Secretary