Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in Communications Minister Michelle Rowland now. Minister, good morning to you. How long is your review going to take into all of this?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: We'll be aiming to do that most expeditiously because we understand that consumers and businesses, exactly as you say, are very frustrated and will want some answers. I think the terms of reference here also need to apply across the industry because we need to take those lessons for the other carriers and service providers as well. This has been very disruptive. It's been economically damaging, but also in some cases, very emotionally taxing for many Australians.
STEFANOVIC: That's for sure.
ROWLAND: They deserve a thorough but also, an expedient investigation here.
STEFANOVIC: Look, you were able to fill that PR void left by Optus yesterday, but you can't really do anything else, can you?
ROWLAND: The most important thing here is, from the government's perspective, is keeping Australians safe. That is why our focus over the last 24 hours has been on that Triple Zero service, to ensure that it is functioning as it should. We know that it did swing into action in terms of Optus mobile customers who weren't able to use their landlines, unfortunately, to access those Triple Zero services.
But the mobile services, by and large, were working in a way that was intended. But this is a serious issue and that's why the regulator is undertaking an independent investigation into this as well, because this is so important.
I will just state that I think Australians are reasonable people. They expect when wrong has been done by them, by a corporation, that company will do the right thing. I think there is a strong expectation in the community about that right now.
STEFANOVIC: So, what potentially could be the result of this for Optus and this Government review?
ROWLAND: I think it’s twofold; firstly, understanding what went wrong and what could be implemented across the industry to mitigate this happening again, including the impacts. But secondly, in terms of those safety impacts with the Triple Zero service, we always need to ensure that they are robust. So, that is twofold.
And within all that as well, there is that issue of customers who have been impacted and who might be seeking compensation. As the ACMA has said, some contracts do enable refunds or rebates, depending on the type of outage caused. The TIO has urged people to keep receipts, to document some evidence of loss that may have accumulated. So, I would encourage consumers to take that advice.
STEFANOVIC: That's good, all that may happen in time. Look, you're the Communications Minister. What happened yesterday?
ROWLAND: Yesterday, as I understand it, there was a serious fault in the core network of Optus affecting its broadband, landline and mobile services. I have not seen a definitive statement from Optus to confirm that. But from my understanding and what has been described, based on the scale and scope and other commentators, that would appear to be what has occurred. As I said, I can't say that definitively and I look forward to Optus providing a full explanation of that technical fault -
STEFANOVIC: Minister -
ROWLAND: - because this will inform what the investigation undertakes going forward.
STEFANOVIC: Minister, you must be ropable that as Communications Minister, you don't know what's happened with that definitive nature. But worse, the customers don't know what happened.
ROWLAND: The most important thing here is for customers to be appraised and whilst I did express my frustration yesterday on behalf of those customers, it is pleasing to see that those services have been restored.
But again, that won't undo the distress that has been caused to those customers. The primary responsibility here now is twofold. It's to ensure that we take the lessons as a Government, but also as an industry, to ensure that this is mitigated in future and that we continue to do everything we can under the regulatory obligations that are there, so that Australians who rely on this connectivity are kept safe.
STEFANOVIC: If they aren't accountable - if they aren't culpable rather, they're certainly accountable. Do you believe they should pay compensation?
ROWLAND: Look, accountability is of the utmost importance here. As I said, I think most reasonable Australians, and knowing what I know about the telco sector and outages that have occurred in the past, it would seem very reasonable for Optus to look at how they can attempt to recompense people for this.
I haven't seen a definitive announcement in this respect yet, but again, that does not obviate their obligations under existing Australian consumer law, under contracts and also, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman scheme.
STEFANOVIC: All right, go hard Minister. Appreciate your time, thank you.