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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 156

Senator Brown asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 18 November 2004:

With reference to the statement to the Senate by the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee on the Casualties of Telstra (COT) issues, which was tabled on 11 March 1999:

(1)   How much has been spent by Telstra in relation to the COT issues.

(2)   How much of this money has been spent on settlements with the original claimants.

(3) (a)   How many of the original claimants have reached a settlement with Telstra; and (b) how many have still to reach a settlement.

(4)   Has any settlement been reached between Telstra and each of the original complainants in relation to the communication problems which were the basis of the inquiry.

Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   Telstra has advised that it paid the fees of the two arbitrators and of the financial and technical resource units assisting the arbitrators. Telstra has advised that it had a considerable number of internal staff engaged in responding to the various Freedom of Information Act requests and directions from the arbitrators that Telstra produce documents. Telstra also engaged the services of external solicitors and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to assist in the preparation of Telstra’s defences. As the arbitrations occurred between 1994 and 1999, Telstra advises that it has been unable to estimate the amount expended on these various activities.

(2)   Telstra has advised that the claims of the sixteen COTs, including the ‘original’ COTs (Mrs Garms, Mrs Gillan, Mr Schorer and Mr Smith), were resolved by arbitrator’s award or negotiated settlement; and the amounts of those awards and settlements are confidential to the parties. Telstra has advised that it is unable to disclose the amounts without the consent of the various COT claimants.

(3) (a)   and (b) Telstra has advised that all of the sixteen COT claims were resolved either by an arbitrator’s award or negotiated settlement. One claimant, Valkobi Pty Ltd received an arbitrator’s award in June 1996. In April 2003 Valkobi issued proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court seeking damages or the setting aside of that award.

(4)   Telstra has advised that the basis of the claims by the COTs was financial loss suffered by them as a result of alleged deficiencies in their telephone service. Telstra advised that the arbitrator’s awards and settlements were in respect of those claims.