VK2ZRH

Roger Harrison, VK2ZRH

WIA "resident expert" on dealing with ACMA is the image put around. Let us examine the positions put forward by Roger Harrison allegedly on behalf of the WIA allegedly on behalf of its members, but truly anything but. This man has been a consistent danger to amateur radio telegraphists and is also apparently the author of the appaling misrepresentation of facts in the WIA submission on the Future of Amateur Radio Licensing sent to the ACMA in April 2016, which is pulled apart elsewhere on this site. Background:

1) History

he dropping of the CW code tests in Australia was requested by VK2ZRH at a meeting with ACMA in which he was alleged to have said, as recorded by witnesses: (If the government can drop the code requirement to allow us Z calls a single day sooner onto HF we will accept any level of interference! It is understandable for the code requirement to be dropped given it was no longer an ITU requirement, however, it was not understandable that a spokesperson should inform the government that in order to be allowed to use HF a day sooner, in exchange radio amateurs will not demand that the government take any action against interference, and that radio amateurs would be prepared to put up with any level of interference in exchange! Further, it is not acceptable that those who did not pass a code test and who do not know Morse Code (CW, Telegraphy) should be allowed to use the CW bands. Instead, they should have been allowed onto HF, but only on frequencies higher than 50kHz from band edge.

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2) Scaremongering

VK2ZRH is endorsed by VK3PC in an editorial which contains contradictions and unwarranted scare mongering. The article is designed to warn against writing to the government and to allow only the WIA to do that — even though the WIA does not consult with its members on important issues that it writes to the government about, notably the very Future of Amateur Radio Licensing. Under an image of what amounts to a red toilet roll with "DANGER" written on it and the alarmist headline:

Danger ! A no-fee Amateur licence fee could mean no service

Date : 02 / 10 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

The WIA Board has become aware of a campaign, circulated by email, to lobby the new Minister for Communications to "review the pricing of amateur radio licences, to bring them into line with other countries". WIA Director Roger Harrison VK2ZRH has responded to the proponents of this lobbying campaign, who are asking the Minister to direct the ACMA to drop Australian amateur licence fees to zero.

The other countries cited in the campaign email are the United States, where "amateurs are issued a licence for 10 years, requiring revalidation after expiry, with no fee"; the United Kingdom, where "amateurs are issued a licence for life requiring revalidation five-yearly, with no fee"; and "in New Zealand, amateurs are licensed under a General Users Licence, with no fee". [Ed.: many other countries, including Russia, also give free licensing to radio amateurs that pass exams more stringent than ours]

The campaign suggests writing a personal letter to the Minister in your own words, arguing that amateur radio’s past and possible role in disaster communications deserves to be valued, as it is in "many countries of the world", then citing the three examples (US, UK and New Zealand), along with the argument that a large number of Australian amateurs are pensioners, for whom “the annual licence fee has seen some simply abandon their hobby due to the cost, and to the detriment of the nation”.

At first blush, said Roger VK2ZRH, the proponents of this lobbying campaign seem to have the interests of Australian radio amateurs at heart, particularly those living on a pension. So, when Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications, receives a letter along the lines advocated, an advisor in his office will likely ask one of the Departmental Liaison Officers what it’s all about, VK2ZRH explains. The DLO will be able to tell the Minister’s advisor that the ACMA already reduced the amateur licence annual renewal fee in April this year, from $75 to $51. The Minister’s advisor might also be told that amateur radio isn’t exactly a low-cost hobby, like stamp collecting, when even second-hand amateur transceivers sell for prices between $250 to $2000, and many new transceivers are priced from $2000 to over $10,000. [Ed.: the point is missed: amateur radio equipment is built or purchased at our own private cost, but, is made available to the public, the government and other services FREE of charge in the event of disaster, so this infrastructure which serves the community in times of need.]

While well-meaning, a lobbying campaign along the lines being advocated is unlikely to make much of an impression within the Minister’s office, says VK2ZRH, let alone with the Minister. And not for the two reasons just highlighted. At this point, Roger VK2ZRH explains that his day job for the past 15 years has involved dealing with correspondence to ministers … composing, editing and coordinating responses to letters from the public, other politicians, companies and all sorts of stakeholders.

[Ed.: note that in the above paragraph ZRH is laying down his credentials as being able to deal with government etc, and at the same time saying that any letters from others would not make any impression upon the Minister for Communications. Yet, in the next paragraph, after more claiming that the masses cannot deal with government, only a special layer of privileged experts of which he is one, can deal with the government, his fellow WIA director VK3PC later below says that the government WILL read and listen to the letters and the result could result in "no service" for Amateur Radio in Australia, with the implication that Australia would join North Korea as the only country where Amateur Radio isn't allowed, or that complaints about interference won't be dealt with. But isn't this already the case? Just listen to the amateur radio bands and all the violations! In Britain, the RSGB have an Observation Service that handle that at no cost to the government.]

With many years of experience in dealing with ministerial correspondence, Roger VK2ZRH said that, each letter for the minister to sign in response is accompanied by a briefing note, setting out the background to whatever issue or issues an author has written about, and justifying the content of the letter the minister might sign. Writing to government ministers is a huge industry in voter land. Government departments have special units that compose responses for their ministers to sign; sometimes a minister’s office will ask the department to respond instead of the minister.

Before entering the world of ministerial correspondence, Roger VK2ZRH was involved with various lobbying groups attempting to influence the policies or decisions of ministers and governments. Not always successfully, he says. A prime lesson learnt was the need to do the homework on the subject – know as much as possible about government and political processes, the how and why of things. Some homework, he suggests, is needed about why we pay amateur licence fees in Australia and why the arguments being advocated by the current lobbyists are not likely to succeed.

In Australia, it is government policy that all spectrum users pay a tax for the use of spectrum – even defence; that is, the armed forces. Spectrum is a resource. The resource is a public good. It isn’t consumed when used, as minerals are, for example. There is a cost for “looking after” the public interest in the use of spectrum. Use of it is allocated and regulated by a complex set of arrangements, arising from both local and international inputs. As you would be aware, the ACMA has a large role here.

[Ed.: the cost of managing amateur radio spectrum is limited to data bases, issuing of licenses, and monitoring for violations. These are all issues that the amateur radio can themselves handle on a voluntary basis.]

However, the ACMA does not set the fees. This is done by a combination of the Department of Communications, the Department of Finance and the ACMA. The ACMA is responsible for the administrative component of the fees that funds spectrum planning and monitoring, regulatory investigations and the like, along with ITU and World Radiocommunications Conference activities, plus the costs associated with management of the licensing data and issuing of licences. The Amateur Service pays its way, along with everyone else.

To introduce a no-fee amateur licence risks a much lower – or no – service from the ACMA, explains Roger VK2ZRH. Arguing to drop amateur licence fees based on amateur radio’s role in emergency communications – "when all else fails" – no longer has traction in the halls of government in Australia.

Amateur involvement in community service may get some recognition, given the significant number of sporting-type activities that rely on amateur radio for safety communications. But not enough to justify a no-fee licence on the basis of volunteer activities. Citing the licence fee situation in other countries will not hold water as the argument does not compare like-with-like in terms of political and government policy, processes and spectrum regulation regimes.

So three countries have no amateur licence fees – what about the other 150-odd countries that allow amateur radio operation and charge licence fees? [Ed.: as pointed out earlier, this is disingenous and likely again includes countries like Somalia in those that charge, but failts to mention that a great many, including Russia, do not charge. No statistics and relevant information are supplied.]

Someone in the Minister’s office is likely to ask that question. What answer is there to that? The NZART has told the WIA that they and many radio amateurs in New Zealand regret the introduction of the no-fee licence there. [Ed.: "The NZART" or a few directors of the NZART, and if the "WIA" was told so, why haven't we the members heard about this letter from the NZART members, or is this just some emails between director friends that counts as "NZART" and "WIA"?]

Here, amateur radio gets a seat at the table when it comes to negotiating changes in legislation and regulations – locally and internationally. Over the years, the Australian radio amateur community has benefitted as a result, Roger VK2ZRH explains.

Do you want to give that up for the sake of a fee-free licence, he asks?

**Editor: while it is agreed that the issue of whether or not there should be charges for licenses is a bigger issue, it is not something that can be dealt with in an editorial by individual WIA directors without being based completely on factual data and reality, something which is again evident in the appalling "Submission on the Future of Amateur Radio Licensing" made by the WIA to the ACMA in April 2016, again with the usual suspects behind its authorship.

3) The Future of Amateur Radio Licensing fiasco

The fiasco of the "Submission from WIA to ACMA on the Future of Amateur Radio Licensing", a 22 page document that is pulled apart elsewhere on this site, and did not involve consultation among WIA members whatsoever, which could easily have occured and should have been made part and parcel of its drafting, avoiding the incompetence and factual errors along with it being based on false premises. Moreover this subject being of paramount importance to ALL radio amateurs in Australia should not ONLY have involved the minority of them who are members of WIA, but the wider amateur radio community, from the grass roots via the life and blood of amateur radio: the local clubs, in particular larger ones such as Westlakes, Adelaide Hills, etc.

4) A broadcast on WIA News

Following the sending of the submission mentioned above, and following criticism of it, again full of factual errors, again pulled apart elsewhere on this site.

The point of all this is not to attack one man and his views, no matter how misguided they are. Nor is it a default "WIA bashing" position. The point is that anything being presented on behalf of radio amateurs, let alone members of an Association, should involve the input of those members, it should be factual, it should be backed by sound statistics and data, and it should contain alternative options, and it should be subjected to additional scrutiny by radio amateurs and feedback to be incorporated and built into it, prior to being submitted "on behalf" of WIA members to the Australian Government. One man with his misguided views that are deleterious to Australian radio telegraphists does not represent neither the WIA nor radio amateurs in general and most certainly not radio telegraphists.

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