Citizens Band Radio (CB) was not legal in Australia until 1977, even though it was gaining popularity in the USA where it was already legal. In the Australian Senate on 1st December 1976, Senator Kilgariff directed a question to Senator Carrick, representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, regarding the plan to legalise CB in Australia, stating that there were some 25,000 Australians currently using CB that were unlicensed. In response, Sen. Carrick said that estimates from the Department of Post and Telecommunications placed the number of unlicensed CB operators in Australia at between 15,000 and 20,000, and the one concern held at the time was the potential for interference to other services.1
At this time there was no radiocommunications service available for personal communications (Amateur Radio was intended for scientific and experimental use). Various CB clubs, including the National Citizens Radio Association (NCRA), Australian Citizens Radio Movement (ACRM, later to become Australian Citizen Radio Monitors), Citizens Radio Emergency Service Teams (CREST), and numerous truck drivers, all petitioned the Government from 1974 for the legalisation of a CB service in Australia. A significant number of 23 channel 27MHz CB sets from the USA had made their way into the Australian CB scene and were being used illegally, given that the band was already in use by the Amateur Radio service.
27MHz CB was formally legalised at a meeting of the National Cabinet on 2nd June 1977 where the Hon. Eric Robinson, Minister for Post and Telecommunications, submitted that some 50,000 CB sets were currently being used illegally in Australia. He submitted that the licensing of CB equipment in the HF band (27MHz) be approved for a period of 3 years, and that the CB service be moved to a UHF band after that. This was to allow current CB users to have a suitable return on their investment in current CB equipment, and allow Australian manufacturers time to equip themselves to make UHF CB equipment for the Australian market. The licence fee was initially set at $20.2
Following this meeting CB was legalised as of 1st July 1977 using the existing 23 channel sets imported from the USA (26.965-27.245MHz), although an Australian 18 channel standard (27.015-27.225MHz), along with UHF, was introduced on 1st January 1978 under RB249. Licensing was under the Handphone option of the Wireless Telegraphy Act and Regulations. The allocation of a channel designated for emergencies (channel 5 on both 27MHz 18ch and UHF bands) only came after the initial legalisation and was disclosed in a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications during the 31st Parliament on 3rd April 1979. Although this question was posed from the viewpoint of a channel for CREST, the Minister recognised that a number of volunteer groups provided emergency monitoring.3
End of 27MHz
The cut-off date for the 27MHz band was set as 30th June 1982, with 21 days for 27MHz operators to cease transmissions on this band. As the 1982 deadline for the complete transfer of CB to the UHF band approached, users of the 27MHz CB equipment rallied to keep the band alive. CB groups protested against the removal of the 27MHz band. Motorcades were run in every major city and petitions were lodged with the Government. These petitions also called for an expansion of the 27MHz band to 40 channels, mirroring the USA band 26.965-27.405MHz, and retention of the dual-band 27MHz and UHF CB service.4, 5, 6, 7, 8
These petitions and protests were successful, and the Government not only removed the “use by” date for 27MHz but expanded the service to the 40 channels it still has today. While fees changed over time, the need to obtain an individual licence for your CB station continued until 3rd October 1994 when the Citizen Band Radio Stations Class Licence was introduced (announced by Roger Smith, Acting Spectrum Manager).9 This removed the need for CB users to apply for a licence and pay an annual fee, but it did not remove any of the legal channel designations or conditions of use that had previously appeared in the RB14/DOC14 documents.
Today, the CB service in Australia continues as a dual-band service with 40 channels between 26.965 and 27.405MHz (AM/SSB, 10kHz steps) and 80 channels between 476.4250 and 477.4125MHz (FM, 12.5kHz steps). While the 27MHz band is the same as that used in the USA and several European CEPT countries, the UHF band is unique to Australia and New Zealand.
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1976, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761201_senate_30_s70. ↩︎
- National Archives of Australia: Cabinet Office; A12909, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Fraser Ministries – Cabinet Submissions (with Decisions), May 1977 – 2 June 1977; 1307, Submission No 1307 : Licensing of transceivers for personal communications – Citizens Band Radio – Decision 3172. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790403_reps_31_hor113. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800827_senate_31_s86. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1980, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800910_senate_31_s86. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800820_senate_31_s86. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800331_senate_31_s84. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2023, http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800430_senate_31_s85. ↩︎
- Commonwealth of Australia, Radiocommunications Act 1992 Citizen Band Radio Stations Class Licence. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Special (National : 1977 – 2012). National, September 16, 1994. Viewed 22 October 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article240385824. ↩︎