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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22806


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (9:20 PM) —I rise tonight to talk about a big business called Telstra. There have been some concerns in my electorate about the way that Telstra has handled some complaints. Only two weeks ago in this place, I raised the concerns of a single parent who had problems connecting a landline to her home in Woodend. She contacted my office and indicated that her son was quite often ill. She was concerned that it was taking more than one month for the landline to be connected. For those who do not know, Woodend is only a one-hour drive from Melbourne—hardly a remote part of this nation—but we had serious concerns about the way Telstra dealt with that problem. I do not complain about the people who are actually on the job there; their issue was that there were few resources to respond to her. Telstra responded in a limited way to mitigate the problem that she experienced. Eventually, after some weeks of complaints, they placed a mobile telephone in her home, knowing the danger she was in. My concern is that there were three weeks in which she was not in a position to have a landline, with a very sick child. We do not really have to be reminded of that issue too often.

Today I have again received correspondence from a constituent—a father who lives in my electorate. He has written on behalf of his daughter who lives in Romsey, which is in a rural part of my electorate and is only one hour and 20 minutes from the Melbourne CBD. In that letter, he is very concerned that she has not been able to be reconnected after a fault occurred as a result of an accident by a linesman, who actually put her telephone out of commission on 14 November. This woman has two children, one of whom is only weeks old. She is also suffering abdominal pains and was concerned that she would not be in a position to have any communication with either her family or medical practitioners if required. That is another community which is very close to Melbourne.

I raise this because of the concerns I have about the government's intention to sell Telstra. But I also raise it against the backdrop of another situation. Recently, without notifying me or the state members of parliament, the Prime Minister entered my electorate with the member for McEwen—that interloper who decided to go there and make comments. The Prime Minister and the member for McEwen would not answer any questions about the problems associated with Telstra. The Prime Minister refused to answer questions that were directed specifically to him by the local media—the Sunbury/Macedon Ranges Leaderand the Macedon Ranges Telegraph—which were trying to find out what they could do to assist the communities in that area that are suffering from the deficiencies of the Telstra system. In his letter to me, this father said:

The telephone service is not `Up to scratch' as the Prime Minister put it.

He is asking me to ask the Prime Minister this: if it is not up to scratch—if his daughter is not in a position to be connected online when she is ill and has two children under the age of four and if the woman I spoke to in Woodend could not be connected after three weeks—what is this government doing in relation to Telstra? The answer is: nothing. The government is doing nothing to assist ordinary people who live in an area that is only one hour's drive from the CBD of Melbourne. That has to change.

If this government believes it is going to sell Telstra and, as a consequence, have the confidence of this nation, it has another think coming. I ask the Prime Minister to respond to these issues. I do so on behalf of the constituents in my electorate who have raised their concerns with me, who are only one hour's drive from Melbourne, in the case of the constituent from Woodend, and a drive of one hour and 20 minutes away, in the case of the woman with two very young children from the community of Romsey. It is about time this government took this issue seriously and did not try to sell off a very important public asset. (Time expired)