TELECOMMUNICATIONS: by News WeeklyNews Weekly
Behind the new Telstra inquiry
, April 8, 2000
The Federal Government recently announced that it would conduct a new inquiry into telecommunications services in Australia, before proceeding with the full privatisation of Telstra. The inquiry will examine the level of service provided by Telstra to rural and regional Australia.
The three-man Inquiry is headed by Tim Besley, formerly chairman of the Commonwealth Bank; Ray Braithwaite, a former National Party MP from Queensland, and Jane Bennett, a Country Woman of the Year from Tasmania, who stated that in her mind, there is still a question mark over privatisation.
Under Telstra's customer service charter, Telstra guarantees to
* keep agreed appointments in regard to either connection or repair of the telephone,
* ensure prompt connection of telephone lines, and
* prompt repair of the service (including a user's telephone and the line connecting the user to the exchange).
It is critically important that people in rural and regional Australia make written submissions to the Inquiry, with a view to highlighting the areas in which Telstra has not fulfilled the universal service obligation.
Additionally, the inquiry is expected to hear evidence about
* the high cost of telephone services in many country areas (with telephone calls often being charged at STD rates).
* the loss of jobs as Telstra reduces staff in rural areas and at customer service centres,
* the consequence of a run-down in telecommunications services, in terms of reliability.
* the implications for telecommunications of the withdrawal of other facilities (e.g. education, banking, hospitals).
The withdrawal of many private sector services require that Telstra's services, being government supplied, need to be very substantially improved just to provide the same level of amenities for Australians living in country areas.