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Telstra billions should mean a better network.

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MEDIA 05/062



Telstra billions should mean a better network Telstra should be required to invest more of its multi-billion dollar profits back into improving its network to ensure all Australians have access to world class telecommunications services, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats Communications spokesperson Senator John Cherry said the 8.8 percent rise in Telstra net profits in the last six months, showed the company had 'plenty of capacity' to invest more in its network and fix longstanding problems.

"When is the Federal Government going to finally take Telstra to task over its poor investment performance? In this year Telstra will invest less on capital than it did in all but one of the last seven years,” Senator Cherry said.

"Yet evidence is showing that the performance of its network is in decline. Nationally, the number of fault-free telephone services fell in the last quarter of 2004, with around 17,500 more services reporting faults in December than in the previous year.

"On Brisbane's northside, the percentage of services reporting faults in December was up 39% on 2003, and on the Southside it was up 48%.

"In August 2003, the Australian Communications Authority promised improvement in rural services from the Network Reliability Framework. In October 2003, the Authority told a Senate Committee that it had 'sought assurances from Telstra' that its urban faults performance would be improved.

"Yet, over the course of 2004, the reliability of the network has declined further. At some stage, the Minister has got to get her 'hands off' regulator to get serious about service standards and to start working on improving the reliability of Telstra's network.

"The Senate has initiated an Inquiry into the powers of the regulator given the Minister's plan to merge the ACA and the ABA before selling Telstra.

"Clearly, Telstra and the Government can do a lot better," Senator Cherry said.

Media contact: Pam Hose 0408 752 750

Senator Cherry is the Chair of the Senate Inquiry into the powers of the regulator, which held its first hearings in Canberra today and will report next month.