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Monday, 18 June 2001
Page: 27785

Mr LLOYD (10:44 PM) —I rise tonight to expand on comments I made earlier today in the 90-second statements. My comments were about welcoming the change to the STD charges that Telstra announced on Sunday. It is a very significant change. It is one that is welcomed by my electorate most certainly, and I am sure by all the outer metropolitan areas of capital cities. It is a change which I have been lobbying for for the more than five years that I have been the member for Robertson, to enable people in my electorate to call the CBD area of Sydney for an untimed flat rate.

The new flat rate of 25c, with an unlimited time, will enable almost all of my electorate of Robertson to make those calls to Sydney. This will be a significant benefit to all the residents in my electorate, particularly older residents. As most members in this chamber would know, the demographics of my electorate of Robertson show that it has a higher than average population of older residents. Many of these people have family and friends residing in Sydney. Of course, the telephone is their lifeline. Some of these people are housebound—obviously, as people get older, it is not as easy to travel—and the telephone keeps them in touch with the outside world. It keeps them in touch with their families and their friends. They like to spend some time on the telephone. During the day, on an STD rate, this ran up the bill quite considerably. Now they will be able to speak to their families and friends in Sydney for an untimed rate of 25c. That will be a great saving. A three-minute call to Sydney will be reduced from 52c to 25c during the day. Quite simply, the longer the call the greater the savings. A 30-minute call using this option will be reduced from $3.22 down to 25c. That will be a very significant saving.

Other residents on the Central Coast—those living a little further north in the Wyong region—will still be able to call the Sydney CBD under the community call charging option, which will mean that they can have a three-hour phone call to Sydney for a maximum rate of 99c. They will have an STD charge of no more than 10c per minute. If they have a two-minute or three-minute call, it will cost them only 20c or 30c. The people living in Wyong and those areas on the northern fringe of the Central Coast will still be able to call Sydney. And, of course, those people living in the northern areas of the Central Coast will now be able to call the CBD of Newcastle at a cheaper rate. It is important that they use that opportunity as well.

Another important aspect of these changes is the assistance to businesses. One of the hindrances to a lot of businesses relocating to regional areas from capital cities was the additional cost of telecommunications charges. I know that we have worked very actively on the Central Coast of New South Wales to attract businesses—new businesses and businesses from all over Australia that are looking to relocate to the Central Coast, which is a vibrant and expanding area. One of the questions they always ask is, `What about the cost of telecommunications?' Having to make STD calls down to the CBD of Sydney, whether for Internet connections or for phone calls, was always a bit of a negative, a bit of a drawback. But now, under the new packages, businesses can take advantage of the BusinessLine Complete and the BusinessLine Plus packages, which will significantly reduce the call costs to the capital city of Sydney.

None of these changes would have been possible if not for the deregulation of the telecommunications industry. The members opposite criticise us for wanting to privatise Telstra, deregulating the industry, allowing other players to come into the market, providing competition and providing cheaper calls to the community. If we had not done this, none of these significant breakthroughs would have happened. It is important to recognise that fact and recognise that the community is now benefiting from the results of the partial privatisation of Telstra, the deregulation of the industry and allowing other companies to come in and provide cheaper services. (Time expired)