Doorstop - CPO Sydney > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

CONTACT SENATOR FIFIELD

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Electorate Office
42 Florence Street
MENTONE VIC 3194

Phone: 03 9584 2455
Phone Toll Free
(Vic only): 1300 797 110

Parliament House Office
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6277 7480




18-April-2018


Doorstop
CPO Sydney

17 April 2018

11am



E & OE




FIFIELD:

The Government is announcing today a comprehensive review of the telecommunications consumer safeguard framework. The current arrangements have been in place for the best part of 20 years and, clearly, telcos need to lift their game.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s six-monthly figures have shown that over the last six months complaints have increased by 27% across the board – mobile, fixed-line and also broadband. It’s important to note that three quarters of those complaints have nothing to do with the NBN and, of those that do relate to services over the NBN, only 5%, or a little over one thousand, have been referred to NBN as matters for which they have responsibility. 

The message is clear: telcos need to lift their game. We want transparency and we want accountability.

QUESTION:

I do note that you say that a thousand of those complaints have gone straight to the NBN. Isn’t it also true that even ACMA your own authority basically tells people that they should go to their telecommunications provider when they have a complaint and not go to NBN?

FIFIELD:

Absolutely. People should go to their retail service provider, if they have an issue. And the retail service provider has the responsibility to address that. If it’s on their side of the fence, they fix it. If it’s on NBN’s side of the fence, then the retailer deals with NBN. Those 5% of cases which I was referring to are ones which have been passed across to NBN as something for which they have an area of responsibility to fix and then to go back to the retailer so they can advise the customer.

QUESTION:

Are you happy with the Ombudsman itself?

FIFIELD:

The Ombudsman is doing very good and important work. But I think it’s timely that we review the complaints arrangements to see if we can improve upon them. I think all consumers want to know very clearly when something is a retailer responsibility and when something is an NBN responsibility, so that there can be accountability. We also want to know which particular retailers are having issues. That’s why, for instance, the work of the ACCC is so important with speed monitoring, where the ACCC embed four thousand probes in people’s premises. And the ACCC report on the real-life speed experiences that people have by retailer. Customers want this information.

QUESTION:

Will these new rules mean that telcos will face more costs in any way?

FIFIELD:

There’s always a cost to telcos in servicing customers who have issues. At the moment, the telcos pay a levy to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to service that important work. And the telcos also can be required by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to pay compensation to consumers and that is as it should be.

QUESTION:

Is there a risk that the Government’s inability to get a good price for the NBN will mean that the Government will struggle to get back to surplus?

FIFIELD:

We are on track for a Budget surplus in 2020-21. We have, since the last election, legislated $34 billion worth of savings. So, we are on track when it comes to Budget repair. Our focus with the NBN is seeing it rolled out and completed by 2020, which is a good six to eight years sooner than would’ve been the case under our predecessors and at $30 billion less cost. What happens after we’ve concluded the rollout, in terms of the ownership arrangements of NBN, is something that will be addressed after we have a Productivity Commission review at the conclusion of the rollout of the NBN.

JOURNALIST:

Are you happy with that headline there Minister? 200 per cent plus increase in complaints about the NBN?

FIFIELD:

Well that 200 per cent complaint figure relates to the six months to December 2017 compared to the six months to December 2016.

If you look at the six months immediately before the reporting period, over which time NBN customers increased by 39 per cent there has actually been a 16 per, cent decrease in the proportion of NBN customers who have lodged a complaint.

JOURNALIST:

Have you given any thought at this stage to writing down the value of the NBN, given quite clearly from a financial point of view it appears to be under some serious constraints?

FIFIELD:

Well the Government can’t unilaterally determine the value of the NBN. That is done according to accounting standards. NBN is valued in the budget presently at about 15 billion dollars. So NBN will be valued according to the appropriate accounting standards.

JOURNALIST:

Is the ombudsman properly resourced to deal with these massive amounts of complaints?

FIFIELD:

Well one of the things that we will look at in the review of consumer safeguards and complaint arrangements is the resourcing of the ombudsman, is the structure of the office and the scope of responsibilities.

We want to make sure that the ombudsman has the tools that they need to do their job.

JOURNALIST:

You’re shooting the messenger though here aren’t you?

FIFIELD:

No. I’m absolutely embracing the messenger, the TIO work is very important and what we want to do is see if we can further enhance the complaints process and the work of the TIO; to see if we can provide even better information for consumers about complaints, about the retailers themselves, about NBN.

Australians want to know who’s responsible when there is an issue. And one of the best ways to lift performance in the telco industry is to have transparency. When you can see who’s responsible, you then have accountability and you can affect change.

JOURNALIST:

Do you believe there’s greater scope for increased financial penalties against those telecommunications retailers who continually transgress?

FIFIELD:

Well financial penalties and compensation is one of the things that we’ll look at in reviewing the consumer safeguards framework. You do want there to be a little bit of a sting for telcos when it comes to behavior that isn’t what it should be.

JOURNALIST:

Just on another issue, how concerned are you that Australian businesses have been hit by Russian hackers?

FIFIELD:

Well our intelligence agencies advise us that in 2017, Russian state sponsored actors did seek to gain access inappropriately through routers in Australian businesses. The good news is that it looks as though they were not successful and that Australian information wasn’t compromised. But we’re very fortunate that we have very capable intelligence agencies in Australia. And we also have very capable cyber security agencies in Australia who well protect us and who are always vigilant for both state and non-state actors.

JOURNALIST:

Can the Australian Government do more to protect Australian businesses?

FIFIELD:

Well the Government has invested more than $200 million in our cyber security strategy. And our agencies work very closely with business.

JOURNALIST:

Will Bill Morrow successor have a big task ahead of him when it comes to turning around the reputation of the NBN?

FIFIELD:

Well firstly can I acknowledge what an outstanding chief executive Bill Morrow has been. When he came into the job, there were barely 51,000 premises nationwide connected to the NBN. Contractors had downed tools in four states. It was essentially a failed project. Bill Morrow has affected one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in Australian history. We now have a rollout run-rate for the NBN of about 100,000 premises a month. It’s available to more than half the nation. And it will be concluded by 2020.

So Bill has done a magnificent job. He’s got some more work to do before he concludes. And the board of the NBN will commence the process of recruiting a successor for Bill. But I should just acknowledge a couple of significant achievements of late. That is congestion in peak periods on the network has come down from about 5 hours a week to about 18 minutes a week. Also NBN when connecting a premise, get it right the first time, pretty close to 9 out of 10 occasions. So NBN in terms of the service it delivers and also the rollout really is hitting the mark and great credit to Bill.

JOURNALIST:

Just on one other issue, is it time to consider decriminalising or legalising cannabis use?

FIFIELD:

That’s not something I would support.

Thank you.


[ends]



Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra.