The new body has its origins in a promise made by communications minister, Stephen Conroy in his speech to the Australian Telecommunications Users Group conference in March when he said he was interested in exploring a range of options that would "provide the strong voice consumers need."
To progress this he organised a Consumer Stakeholder Forum in Canberra on 1 May and subsequently announced a grant of $87,000 to the Consumers Telecommunication Network (CTN) to cover costs associated with obtaining legal advice, logo and branding development, website development, a human resources consultancy for wages benchmarking and project management and sitting fees to create the new body. Consumers handed a report to the minister outlining their plans for a new representative body on 1 August.
Conroy said he would "look forward to considering the report it has recently provided on consumer representation arrangements going forward." And he welcomed the formation of ACCAN saying: "This is an important step in the process towards a stronger unified consumer voice. Strong and effective consumer representation is paramount for a vibrant and competitive telecommunications market."
According to its press release, ACCAN will "represent the full range of telecommunications consumers in Australia; people with disabilities, from rural and remote Australia, those living on low incomes, seniors, youth, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, indigenous Australians, and small businesses (in their capacity as consumers) and will take communications consumer issues and concerns to government, the regulators and to industry." Some 33 organisations participated in its creation.
The head of CTN, Theresa Corbin told iTWire at the time the grant was announced that the, tentative, plan was for the new body to absorb CTN and take over administration of grants funding totalling about $800,000 per year on which CTN and a number of other consumer representative bodies rely and which is provided under section 593 of the Telecommunications Act.
iTWire understands that this $800,000 of grants funding has not been indexed for a decade, and, as Corbin explained to iTWire earlier, the whole project hinges on adequate budget funding. In the meantime, ACCAN will work towards becoming a fully operational entity entity subject to recieving sufficient funds for its own operations and to administer. Its press release said: "While the minister considers the report, the founding board has many tasks to complete in the mean time including establishing its own policies and strategies, and cementing relationships with its constituencies, government and industry."
The ACCAN founding board members are:
- Nan Bosler, president, Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, and current director of CTN;
- Len Bytheway, CEO of ACT for Kids and deputy chair of CTN. - Aaron Davis, CEO, Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network. - Gerard Goggin, professor of digital communication, and deputy director Journalism and Media Research Centre, UNSW;
- Catriona Lowe, co CEO Consumer Action Law Centre and chair of Consumers Federation of Australia;
- Kyle Miers, manager, of national information and projects with Deaf Children Australia, president of Deaf Australia, and founding member of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations;
- Holly Raiche, executive director, Internet Society of Australia, a n director of CTN;
- Alex Varley, CEO Media Access Australia;
- Sue Salthouse, director, Didactic Enterprise, chair of the Communications Alliance Disability Council.