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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 627


Mr NEVILLE (10:36 AM) —I am not exaggerating when I say that my office has been fielding complaints about telecommunications services and infrastructure—or, more precisely, the lack of services and infrastructure—for weeks on end. Every day, serious complaints about phone lines dropping out, services being disconnected without reason, lengthy breakdowns in email services and a failure to have existing accounts switched over to new providers have flooded in. Telstra, Optus—all the major telecommunications players—need to stop clowning around with their customers. I am not criticising employees working at the coalface—the techs et cetera. I save my comments for those further up the organisational chain of command in those companies.

Telstra has been by far the most common target of complaint. Let me quote from one constituent who outlined his problems in a recent letter to the editor:

On January 12 I rang Telstra about the sudden increase in my broadband bill, and after about three hours on the phone, that little problem was sorted out … Lo and behold, some bright spark decided to disconnect my phone line on the same day … for the next nine days, I spent over 30 hours talking to people and still not getting the problem fixed.

Just this week my office was informed of a situation where for two months a customer had been without a phone because Optus failed to ‘port across’—that is the expression—a number to Telstra. The gentleman who rang for help simply wanted to change providers—to go from Optus to Telstra—and made his original request at the beginning of December. For two months he waited with no home phone and operated a home business from his mobile phone. It was not until he contacted my office in January that things started to happen for him and I am hopeful that the problem will now be resolved. If it is not, I will be making a ‘please explain’ request to Telstra on his behalf.

It is galling enough when a home phone or internet service fails, but even worse when your business depends on it. Without exaggerating, there are local businesses in my electorate which have lost thousands of dollars worth of potential business because their phone lines have not been working. Small business is copping it tough right now and, if service providers cannot get their act together for both business and residential customers, things are only going to get worse. In these tough times, that sort of conduct is inexcusable.