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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7912


Senator MACKAY (3:16 PM) —I guess all I can say about Senator Tierney is: he would say that, wouldn't he? He has got the same Telstra brief that the minister had. The advice that I would give to the minister before he gives this information to Senator Tierney is to get himself some new staff, because that was a straight Telstra line. It was not simply a Telstra line; it was a line that Telstra itself had contradicted.

Let me go to the Orwellian termed `customer network improvements database', which I referred to. The interesting thing about this is that it shows without a doubt, I have to say, that the Estens inquiry was a whitewash. Why? Telstra told us last Friday at the hearing that Senator Tierney, Senator Moore and I attended that they gave the Estens inquiry a figure for faults—the CNI database. As of 1 October 2002, the figure that they gave the Estens inquiry was 108,772 faults. They gave that to the Estens inquiry in October before the Estens inquiry report was brought down. But, if you turn to page 70 of the Estens inquiry report, you note that Mr Estens—a member of the National Party—chose to quote a figure from February. Telstra gave two sets of figures to the Estens inquiry. The first figure of 104,500 was provided in February and they then gave an additional set of figures to the Estens inquiry in October—and that figure was 108,772. Which figure did the Estens inquiry choose to use? They chose to use the earlier, lower figure. The Estens inquiry, despite having that information from Telstra— and I have to say they probably have had more luck than Senator Moore, Senator Lundy and I have had in getting any information out of this mob at all—chose to use the lower figure. Why? The reality is they wanted to make the picture as pretty as they possibly could. I do not think that the Estens inquiry really, after this revelation, have much credibility—if they ever did from the start, being stacked with two members of the National Party and a long-time friend of Mr Anderson.

Let us go to the spin that Senator Alston was just reading out from the Telstra brief— and I would advise Senator Alston to get some new staff, or alternatively, get the department to have a look at Telstra's briefs before they punt them on to the poor old minister. Let me quote Telstra itself about categories 1 to 3. Category 3 is safety related. Mr Rix said the first three categories:

... are escalated tickets of work that need work done straightaway—

This is what Telstra said—

that are a safety issue or that relate to a complaint. All of those are service affecting.

All of those first three categories are service affecting. He goes on—

When we talk about the CNI database being a maintenance program, we are generally talking about categories 4 and 5, which are potentially things like broken pits...

I think we have been extremely fair to Telstra. We have not talked about categories 4 and 5. We accept that generally they are minor. But I would suggest that somebody is misleading somebody. It is either Telstra misleading the minister, or the department misleading the minister, or the minister potentially misleading the parliament. I say to the government, `Don't buy Telstra's line. Don't be so lazy. Go out there and get the information yourselves and report to the people of Australia the truth of the network.' Just to reiterate: Mr Paratz, another Telstra official, at the Friday's hearing in relation to the first three categories said:

I think we can say that 1 to 3 may be service affecting, yes.

So poor old Minister Alston gets up here and in a Pavlovian fashion reads out a brief that has come from Telstra. It has not even been through the department. It has not been checked off by his own office, and I suspect it has inadvertently misled the Senate. I ask the minister to go back and check these figures. I ask the minister to read the Hansard as assiduously as he did with regard to Senator Lundy, and to come in here and set the record straight.