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28      Communications— CapTel service

Senator Urquhart, pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 404—That the Senate—

(a)              notes that the Government cut the access of Australian users to CapTel through the National Relay Service (NRS) on 1 February 2020;

(b)              welcomes the actions of Ultratech, a US-based company, to establish an interim CapTel service for Australian users;

(c)              notes the statement by the Ultratech CEO, Mr Rob Engelke, on 1 February 2020:

‘I have been genuinely moved by the outpouring of heartfelt messages from Australians who are clearly distressed and frightened about living without CapTel. CapTel has been available for over ten years in Australia and I believe it is not acceptable to leave CapTel users without access to family, friends, employment, emergency services and the myriad ways that all of us use the telephone.

Therefore, as a temporary measure, I have instructed our American captioning centers to support existing Australian CapTel handsets so that they will continue to operate with captions while we investigate long-term options based in Australia’.

(d)             further notes that:

(i)                    cutting access to CapTel through the NRS has created distress for senior deaf and hearing impaired Australians, and a permanent loss of service would negatively affect their quality of life and sense of security and safety at home, 

(ii)                  while the Government has been prepared to protect a Cabinet Minister whose administration of the $100 million community sports grant program has been criticised by the Auditor-General, they have not been prepared to protect the dignity and wellbeing of senior deaf Australians, and

(iii)                the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts has now attempted to blame the 2013 Labor Government, the public service, the previous relay provider, and recently the US technology licensee, for the Government’s own decision to cut funding and services;

(e)              condemns the Government for its lack of consultation with CapTel users, or their concerned family members, before imposing a decision that would affect their welfare; and

(f)               calls on the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts to stop the misinformation and buck passing, and move urgently to reach an agreement to secure ongoing access to CapTel.

Statement by leave : The Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries (Senator Duniam), by leave, made a statement relating to the motion.

Question put.

The Senate divided—

AYES, 33

Senators—

Ayres

Gallagher

McKim

Smith, Marielle

Bilyk

Griff

O’Neill

Steele-John

Brown

Hanson

Patrick

Sterle

Carr

Hanson-Young

Pratt

Urquhart

Chisholm

Kitching

Rice

Walsh

Ciccone

Lambie

Roberts

Waters

Di Natale

McAllister

Sheldon

Watt

Dodson

McCarthy*

Siewert

Whish-Wilson

Faruqi

 

 

 

NOES, 29

Senators—

Abetz

Davey

McLachlan

Reynolds

Askew

Duniam

McMahon

Ruston

Birmingham

Hughes

Molan

Ryan

Bragg

Hume

O’Sullivan

Scarr

Brockman

McDonald

Paterson

Smith, Dean*

Canavan

McGrath

Payne

Stoker

Chandler

McKenzie

Rennick

Van

Colbeck

 

* Tellers

Question agreed to.