3AW with Neil Mitchell > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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26-May-2018

Interview with Neil Mitchell
3AW
10.30am
25 May 2018



E & OE

MITCHELL:
I just want to check on the Telstra issue. There’s been three major outages in three weeks with a chaotic Friday back on May 4. And they told us lightning had struck a pit in New South Wales. Well it was 200km’s away. That wasn’t it at all. Triple zero down, Eftpos machines, ATM’s, phones, people couldn’t pay for their fuel. Another outage Monday across Australia, disaster for small business. Telstra says that was a double software fault. The man in charge of getting answers here is the Minister for Communications Senator Mitch Fifield, good morning.

FIFIELD:

Good morning Neil.

MITCHELL:

What about compensation?

FIFIELD:

I’ve asked Telstra if compensation is something that they’re looking at for the last outage that happened on Monday. Telstra say that they’ll look at this on a case-by-case basis. But my advice to Telstra in what is a highly competitive mobile market, would be if you want to keep your customer share, then you’ve got to keep them happy.

MITCHELL:

Well this man who took half an hour but finally got $15 off his bill for the next year off his plan, which is a good step, but another guy was offered $3. I mean surely they need a uniform policy here.

FIFIELD:

Telstra as a private telecommunications company; it’s up to them what they do to make good with their customers. If they don’t keep their customers happy then their market share of 40 per cent of the mobile market will go down.

MITCHELL:

So what is their obligation under legislation or under agreement with you? What are they required to do here. Because we still don’t know what happened really.

FIFIELD:
The outage on Monday, which went from about 10 o’clock to 3 o’clock, as you mentioned Neil, was a piece of Telstra network infrastructure which had a software fault. And Telstra’s redundancy, which was meant to kick in, didn’t. What that meant was that 4G services were disrupted. People fell back to the 3G service. And that sudden peak in demand for the 3G network meant that it couldn’t cope. So, what we want from Telstra are answers. I’m going to be seeing Andy Penn on Tuesday to go through with him exactly what happened. We have been getting progressive updates. But I want a face to face with Andy to talk to him about what it is that Telstra can do to really minimise the likelihood of these sorts of outages happening in the future. 

MITCHELL:
What about on May 4 when they said lightning hit a pit but there was no lightning within 200km. Do you know what happened there?

FIFIELD:

Well Telstra tell us that there were three separate causes which in combination saw that outage. That there was a failure on an interstate fibre line.

MITCHELL:

Was that the one exploding in the pit?

FIFIELD:

No, that’s separate to the one exploding in the pit.

MITCHELL:

Another one? Righto. Jeez they’re the unluckiest company since the Titanic aren’t they?

FIFIELD:

This is true. And there also were software faults in two sets of routers which were meant to provide the redundancy and divert traffic around those two faults. So what we’ve done is instigated two enquiries. My Department is undertaking one of those. My Department has the contract with Telstra, importantly, for the triple zero service. So my people will be talking to the thirty State and Territory emergency service authorities about their experience. But also ACMA, who are the telco regulator who enforce the legal obligations on Telstra for the triple zero service are undertaking an enquiry. And ACMA does have the power to commence Federal Court action if they deem that appropriate to seek an enforceable undertaking and financial penalties.

MITCHELL:

So bottom line is this all coincidence? Is it bad management? Is it outdated equipment? Or don’t we know?

FIFIELD:
Well Telstra, Andy Penn will tell you that they have been investing billions of dollars in upgrading their network infrastructure over recent years. There have been over the last 12 months a number of outages and we’ve just spoken about two of them. What I want to determine is if there is some systemic issue. I know that Telstra are examining afresh their network architecture. Because people rely on mobile communication. When mobile started 30 years ago it was simply for voice and then it became text and now its data.

MITCHELL:
So Telstra’s reviewing their overall architecture are they?

FIFIELD:
That’s just good practice when you’ve had this sort of series of events.

MITCHELL:
Yeah but they hadn’t told us they’re doing it, that’s a good thing, I agree.

FIFIELD:
Absolutely it’s a good thing. You know all of us rely on this. Mobile phones are no longer just a supplement to the fixed line network which they originally were. They’re key to business. They’re key to emergency services. They’re key to individuals keeping in touch with family and friends.

MITCHELL:
Thank you very much, perhaps we can check in with you after you meet Andy Penn on Tuesday, Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications.

[ends]


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