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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3168

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate)(6.51 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This report of Austel on Telstra's implementation of the recommendations of The COT cases report makes critical observations on the way that Telecom has handled the COT cases. This is a saga that has been going on now for over three years. Before the change of government I made representations to Senator Bob Collins and to a number of other senators as the portfolio changed. Since the change of government I have continued to make representations to Senator Alston.

Senator Woodley —Will he see you, though?

Senator BOSWELL —He certainly will see me. It really is a sad indictment on Telstra. There were four people that got together with their particular problems—two from Queensland and two from Victoria—and they formed what was loosely termed the Casualties of Telecom. Telecom promised them a fast track, non-legalistic arbitration. Telecom have spent $5.2 million in answering the claims of these four particular members. Then there was the $54,691.61 Australian Federal Police investigation. That was in March 1995. I would not know how much has been spent since then, but it is a considerable amount of money.

I pointed out to Senator Alston—I know he shares these concerns; he has expressed those concerns to me—that there have been, as this report indicates, two settlements made. But the settlements have hardly covered the costs of the people that were supposed to be reimbursed, the COT cases. In one particular case, Mrs Garms has spent between $300,000 and $350,000 to supply technical advice to assist her claim and she has received something like $300,000 back. In another case, there has been a huge amount of money expended and the payments have hardly covered the expenditure.

I believe that when the claimants were promised a fast, non-legalistic arbitration process that is what it meant. It did not mean that the claimants had to go and spend $300,000 or $400,000 answering technical information that Telecom put up. I have asked Senator Alston to help by having the fair and reasonable costs of the claimants paid. That is where the COT cases rest at the moment. (Time expired)