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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10419

Community Affairs: Supplementary Budget Estimates

(Question No. 2397)

Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Human Services, upon notice, on 30 October 2012:

With reference to questions asked during the 2012-13 Supplementary budget estimates hearing of the Community Affairs Legislation Committee held on 18 October 2012, relating to the arrangement between Telstra and the Government:

(1) Did the request for tender specifically ask for proposals relating to free rate mobile calls.

(2) Did the agreement with Telstra require Telstra to free rate calls from mobiles; if so, why.

(3) Was a consideration paid by the Government to Telstra to achieve the outcome of free rate calls from mobiles, and was this service part of the overall consideration.

(4) Were other mobile telecommunication providers asked to put forward proposals to provide free calls from mobile phones to the designated 1-800 numbers; if not, how does the Government determine whether it has achieved value for money.

(5) Was any price comparison performed across mobile telecommunication providers to determine whether encouraging low-income and disadvantaged Australians who are clients of the department to use Telstra services would result in an increase in their average phone bills; if not, why not.

(6) Does the Government believe that it has a duty of care to its clients in this regard.

(7) Did the Government take into account the fact that Telstra increased the costs of calls to services on 1-300 numbers from fixed phones, from 30 cents to 35 cents, as of 1 October 2012.

(8) Did the Government undertake any analysis on the average savings low-income or Government beneficiary users may make on mobile calls to key services that are free under this deal, as opposed to the increased costs they may bear from the prices Telstra charges for calling other key services.

(9) Was any cost benefit analysis performed; if so, what did it show.

(10) Did Telstra agree to free rate phone calls to the Kids Helpline; if not, why not.

(11) Did the Government consider it to be an important consideration whether or not clients could access the Kids Helpline as a free rate call from Telstra mobile phones.

(12) Did other mobile telecommunication providers offer a free rating for the Kids Helpline.

(13) Has the Government received any correspondence from any Commissioner for Children expressing concern that Telstra would not free rate calls to this telephone service; if so, can a copy of the correspondence from the relevant Commissioner or Commissioners and the Government response be provided.

Senator Kim Carr: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) No.

(2) During the negotiation phase of the tender process the Department of Human Services (the Department) explored opportunities for Telstra to provide additional benefits to support rural and remote and disadvantaged citizens.

The final contract agreement reflected the outcomes of the negotiations that were agreed between the parties. The contract agreement provides for free mobile calls from Telstra mobile phones for five selected inbound numbers operated by the Department.

(3) No. There is no additional cost to the Department as Telstra waives the per minute call charges for Telstra mobile phone customers.

(4) No. During the negotiations with Telstra, Telstra advised they would provide free calls from Telstra mobile phones to the designated 1-800 numbers as part of their offer.

(5) No. The Department does not have access to information relating to arrangements made between individuals and their telecommunication providers on their mobile call plans. These arrangements would vary depending on the individual's circumstances and requirements and would make any comparison difficult.

(6) The Department believes that the individual is best placed to determine their own arrangements for mobile phone plans and their provider of choice.

(7) No.

(8) No.

(9) Standard cost benefits analysis was conducted in line with Commonwealth Procurement practices to determine value for money. The outcome of the cost benefit analysis conducted as part of the procurement exercise is reflected in Telstra being selected as the successful tenderer.

(10) No. This service is not operated by the Department. The Department is unable to comment.

(11) No. Refer to the response to question ten above.

(12) No. This service is not operated by the Department. The Department is unable to comment.

(13) Neither the Minister for Human Services nor the Department has received any correspondence from any Commissioner for Children.