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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7897


Senator EGGLESTON (2:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Alston. Is the government committed to providing a comprehensive response to the Estens inquiry recommendation regarding pair gains—the technology which enables multiple telephone services to operate on a single copper line? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies in this area?


Senator Lundy —Here we go!


Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —Just be patient; we will get to it. As most people in this chamber probably know by now, because Senator Lundy seems to be a self-proclaimed expert in the field, pair gains allow two telephone services to be provided over the same copper line, even though it was originally designed only for voice calls. This is a way of extending the life of an existing network. However, there have been some problems, and the ACCC has noted that the use of pair gains and other technologies, known as RIMS, do limit the availability of ADSL broadband services.


Senator Lundy —And myriad other examples.


Senator ALSTON —Your turn will come in a minute. Estens has also reported on this and recommended that Telstra demonstrate that it has a strategy to address any data issues arising from poorly performing pair gains. So we are on the case; we are dealing with the issue. Because Senator Lundy spent a lot of time talking about pair gains, I am asked whether there are any alternative approaches. Given that she has made at least three speeches, put out about 16 press releases this year and boasted about having a pair gains web site, and all the rest of it, I think it is probably important that we presume she has a sophisticated understanding of the technological issues involved. We should therefore look very closely at what she has said on this subject so we can get some insight into what the Labor Party's approach might be in government. I take the Senate to the Hansard transcript of an estimates hearing on 20 November. Senator Lundy asked Mr Paratz, a Telstra representative:

I was asking about SCADS before. Can you tell me what a DCRS20 system is and whether or not it carries ISDN services and ADSL?

There is a lot of gobbledegook there. It sounds impressive, doesn't it? Mr Paratz answered:

I am going to have to ask you to clarify that because we have DRCSs—

not DCRSs—

and we have DCS20s—

in other words, combining two pair gain technologies into a completely new entity—

we do not have any of those animals. So which one are we talking about?

Senator Lundy responded:

Whatever.

Mr Paratz said:

Ask me the next question, and then I can infer what it is we are talking about.

And Senator Lundy responded:

I do not know what I am talking about. I did not know what SCADS was and I do not know what the DRCS or whatever is.

The Telstra response was:

Ask whoever it is to tell us and then we can get back to you.

Merry Christmas, Senator Lundy!