Doorstop on Telstra announcement
Mural Hall, APH
20 June 2018
E & OE
This is a
difficult day for the staff of Telstra and our thoughts are very much with
them. I’ve spoken to the CEO of Telstra, Andy Penn, who has advised me that
this is a matter that he’s very focused on. He appreciates that this is a
difficult time for their staff. Mr Penn has also advised me that Telstra will
be putting in place a $50 million transition program to assist affected staff.
These changes will occur over a number of years. It's important to recognise
that our telecommunications companies operate in a highly competitive
environment that is constantly evolving. That is indeed true for all Australian
businesses, which is one of the reasons why we will continue to work hard to
secure the passage of our company tax cuts.
Telstra’s had a
bunch of outages in the past year. They had a lot of service issues. Are you
confident that these job cuts won’t just contribute to more problems?
Well, it's up to
each telco business to make judgments as to the best way to meet the needs of
their customers and the best way to satisfy their shareholders. Telstra have
determined that this is the program that they will pursue to provide the
service that their customers expect.
provide massive amounts of our telecommunications in this country. Are you- do
you have any concerns that they might be putting profits for their shareholders
ahead of service for Australians?
for all telcos to meet the expectations of their customers, to make the
business decisions that will deliver to consumers the products that they
expect. Mr Penn has indicated that part of the reason why Telstra is pursuing
this approach is to ensure that they can simplify the product offerings for
much the only teleco that does any decent service in the bush. Do you have any
concerns that regional areas will be particularly hard hit by these job cuts?
The objective, as
announced by Telstra, is to enhance the offering of products to consumers. Mr
Penn has indicated that these staff reductions will essentially be in the areas
of management and back office, that the customer-facing roles in Telstra are
where they will continue to put their emphasis and their focus.
Have you sought
any assurances that these won’t affect regional and rural areas?
The balance of
roles between metropolitan and regional areas Mr Penn has indicated will
continue to be much in the proportion that they currently are.
The profits are
something in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars, if not over a
billion dollars. Do you concede that this is potentially a bad look for a
company that has been going through some troubles, particularly when it comes
to customer service recently?
Well, it's up to
each business to explain why they take the decisions that they do. Telstra have
indicated that their objective is to provide a good service to their customers,
to simplify their product offering, and to put the business on a better
levers do you have to ensure a good outcome for consumers following this change
continue to be required to meet the customer service standards that they currently
have. They will continue to be subject to the oversight of the
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and also the Australian Communications
and Media Authority. I've recently announced that we are going to be reviewing
the customer safeguards that are currently in place to ensure that we have even
greater transparency when it comes to the complaints that are made against
telcos and also how those are handled.
Do you accept
you’re using the ABC as a punching bag?
Look, the ABC is
an important national institution. It makes an important contribution to news
and current affairs. Indeed, the ABC is one of the important underpinnings of
civic journalism in Australia. It's also one of the important underpinnings of
media diversity in the nation.
What did you
think of the managing director’s speech yesterday?
Look, I’m not in
the habit of providing a commentary on speeches provided by the CEOs of
agencies in my portfolio.
question regarding arts as your- I guess, wearing your Arts Minister’s
hat. Today, the ACT’s report into pill testing has come out and it's
recommended a national rollout of such programs, such as drug testing programs
across music festivals across the country. As Arts Minister, is it that
something you would like to see happen?
Well, I don't
consider that the consumption of illegal drugs is something that is intrinsic
to the performing arts or live music in the nation. I would urge people who
attend arts events to say no when someone offers them illicit substances.
But we've seen
that it could potentially save lives. In the case of the ACT, there were two
lethal substances which were detected. Given that this has a potential of harm
minimisation, is it worth considering?
The best way for
people to protect themselves against illicit substances is not to take them.
Telstra is also
looking at hiving off some if its infrastructure assets into a separate company.
Is this paving the way for the NBN to be sold specifically and have you
addressed that with them?
announced that they will be establishing a separate business unit that will
contain most of their infrastructure; the pits, the pipes, the undersea cables.
Telstra have not made any decisions about what the future of that business unit
may be. Mr Penn has indicated that that decision to create that business unit
gives Telstra optionality. But they have made no decisions. We have always had
the policy, as have our predecessors, that NBN will ultimately not remain in
the hands of government.
government’s currently paying Telstra about $270 million a year to provide pay
phones and ensuring that the lines are intact. Do you think the government’s
getting good value out of that money and would you consider renegotiating that
As part of the
agreements reached by our predecessors with Telstra in the rollout of the NBN,
there are payments of around $10 billion dollars over the life of the NBN and
that goes towards moving people from the Telstra network to NBN and shutting
down the Telstra network. We also have separate to that, the Universal Service
Obligation which provides funding to Telstra to ensure that everyone in the
pre-NBN world has access to a fixed line service. We have announced that we are
reviewing the Universal Service Obligation arrangements, given that they were
framed for an environment before the NBN. And the Productivity Commission has
undertaken a report that says that it's important that those arrangements are
refreshed and changed for the future.
Does that mean
lower payments for Telstra?
We have made no
decisions about the future of the Universal Service Obligation, but what we
won't do is change those arrangements until we have determined that we have in
place protections to ensure that everyone can have access to service.
infrastructure company was spun out into a separate company, whether listed or
unlisted and was separated from Telstra, are you confident that those service
obligations would be transferred to that company, to make sure that services
were still being- well, the infrastructure was maintained?
advised that they've made no decisions about the future of that infrastructure
business unit that they will be establishing. And we have made no decisions
about future universal service obligations. But what we are absolutely
committed to is that what replaces the current universal service obligations
will ensure that there are protections for all Australians, that they will have
access to the services that they need.
Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra.