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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7913

Senator EGGLESTON (3:21 PM) —Senator Mackay was talking about customer network improvements and alleging or implying that in some way that means that Telstra services are at fault, that they have broken down and that people are being badly dealt with. I have to say that that is just absolute rubbish and it shows that Senator Mackay simply does not really understand what the CNI figures are all about. The tasks listed on the CNI database are not necessarily customer services at risk. It is not a fault database as such. Actual faults are dealt with separately as they arise and are subject to the government's customer service guarantee. As Senator Tierney has said, that is a very important guarantee which the Howard government introduced to provide and ensure that telecommunications services to the public were well maintained and of a high standard. To claim, as Senator Mackay is doing, that the CNI means that the Telstra network is riddled with faults and that people should be scared for their safety is very misleading, if not totally irresponsible. While the total number of entries may appear high, it needs to be remembered in the overall context of the Telstra network, which has over 10 million fixed services per annum, that the CNIs represent only about 1.12 per cent of services. That is very low indeed, Senator Mackay. Telstra has made very sound progress in reducing priority 1 CNIs from 2,000 in July 2001 to 348. Priority 2 CNIs are down from 2,000 a year ago to 943 recently. Any CNI identified as potentially affecting services or that are safety-related are actioned as soon as possible.

So there we are, Senator Mackay. It is not a story of poor service; it is a story of good service and better service once again delivered by the Howard government to the people of Australia. In a general way, we should look at what the Howard government has done for telecommunications and encouraged Telstra to do. On Tuesday I went to the Telstra lunch where the CEO of Telstra, Ziggy Switkowski, was telling us what Telstra planned to do in the future. We know what has happened in the recent past under the Howard government with the assistance of Telstra. We have had the Networking the Nation program, which has brought improved telecommunications to rural areas. We have seen mobile phone coverage extended so that there is now coverage along the great highways of this country. Through programs such as the Wireless West program CDMA coverage is being extended throughout country areas. A special contract of $150 million was let to ensure that those people living in the most remote areas of Australia have improved fax, Internet and telephone services provided by satellite.

We also heard from Ziggy Switkowski that Telstra is going to offer broadband delivered by satellite to people throughout Australia. This means that whether people live in Vaucluse in Sydney, in Claremont in Perth, in Alice Springs, in some remote area of North or South Australia or on a mountain top in Tasmania they will have access to a very high-quality broadband Internet service. Through the Optus-Foxtel deal we are going to see about 200 channels available on pay TV. The Howard government has an unbelievably successful record in improving the telecommunications services to the people of Australia, which you know is true, Senator Mackay, just as Senator Lundy knows it is true. You have a little bit of fun trying to knock this government's record but it has such a fine record that you can make no impact. This government has been the most extraordinarily successful government in the field of telecommunications that this country has ever seen.