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Monday, 22 November 2021
Page: 10589


Mr LEESER (Berowra) (18:34): I second the motion. I want to applaud the work of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition. Many of the issues they face are also issues that we face in peri-urban areas, and I have the privilege of meeting the coalition members in the context of the private member's bill exposure draft that I released backed by 18 of my government colleagues back in September. What I thought I would do today is take this opportunity to provide the House with some feedback, as a result of the exposure draft we've received, not just from the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition whose work is so good and important but from ordinary citizens across the country who face terrible communications technology difficulties both in regional and peri-urban settings.

Jennifer from Beachport in South Australia has said in her submission:

I'm a falls risk and I'm a Telstra customer.

Often my service is only one bar on 3G instead of a minimum 4G.

If I fall and can't get up and can't ring out, there's a good chance I'd be there until 1 pm Friday when a carer arrives, possibly up to one week. Frightening.

I battle with Telstra internet and if the town is in holiday mode quite often I can't connect.

I pay my bills and buy my groceries online, and I experience a high level of frustration.

It can be 10 pm at night before I'm able to access internet on wifi mobile. Issues can take five days to resolve.

This is simply not good enough, especially for vulnerable Australians.

In Tasmania, Damien from Wilburville says lives have already been lost in his community. He says:

For over 11 years now we lost our Telstra Mobile Phone Reception here in Wilburville and Arthurs Lake.

I have complained to Telstra for many times over the years and as a retired Volunteer Ambulance Officer we've sadly lost lives that may have been preventable if we'd had Telstra's mobile phone service.

Telstra has profited billions over the years and surely funds can be found to address this issue here in the very rural, remote and isolated central highlands of Tasmania.

Hear, hear, Damien! You're absolutely right.

In my own electorate, Margaret from Glenorie wrote:

Recently Telstra wanted to upgrade my plan and charge me more.

They can't even give me what's in my present contract.

I can't imagine how contact tracing worked in my area with the dodgy mobile communications.

As an elderly widow, I find it very scary having no guaranteed means of communication.

The only way is to have my mobile phone on a rubbish bin outside my garage and run backwards and forwards to my computer inside. This all has to be done at 3 am to 4 am when there's reception.

I could tell you many sad tales about when my husband had a terminal illness—he has now passed away—and I could not contact the outside world because of low/unreliable communications.

I went to the Telstra store to try and get help and was treated very badly and not helped at all. It was like I had crept out of a garbage pile, very. Will not be doing that again.

Just try and imagine how scary it can be when you have no means of communication with anyone and you live in Sydney.

The service from the telcos like Margaret has experienced is absolutely appalling. And those telco executives are absolutely reprehensible. They've got the same problems in Cedar Creek in Queensland. Louise wrote in her submission:

We have no mobile reception at our home. This causes constant problems. My husband and I are doctors. We struggle to do on-call from home because we've got no mobile reception and very poor ADSL internet. Our children were unable to homeschool due to poor phone and internet service. The lack of mobile reception is dangerous and leaves us at a serious disadvantage to our peers. Medical specialists are being affected in my electorate as well.

Jodie, a psychologist from Dangar Island, wrote:

I'm a psychologist and I had to go 100 per cent telehealth for all my clients during lockdown. It was so difficult to maintain connection in a very stressful time with very stressed clients. It was near impossible—very poor service.

Christie from Maaoupe in South Australia said:

Telecommunications coverage in our area of Maaoupe is progressively getting worse.

With all the upgrades to towers we have seen zero capacity.

I sit here in my kitchen with call after call dropping out. I run my business from satellite NBN and hope for the best with the phones.

I have had to reconnect an old copper phone line because our service is regressing.

I live in an already isolated environment made even more so by having limited communication power. Mental Health in regional areas is at an all-time high and it's not hard to see why.

I feel unsafe during summer particularly on fire ban days when I can't update the alerts or get phone service …

Telco's are quick to tell me what funds I can spend to get better services but don't seem willing to spend some of that to help me!

It's time the telcos took their heads out of the sand and started to deal with the real problems Australians face every single day. The appalling customer service, the outright lies they tell about connectivity, and the fact that at times of natural disaster, they are missing in action and unaccountable for failing to provide these services. Phone and internet are essential services Australians rely on. It's time we did better. Go to telcoreform.com.au.