Interview with Lisa Miller, ABC News Breakfast
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland joins us now from Sydney. Minister, thanks very much for your time. What's this review going to achieve?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: It's important, I believe, to have a post-incident review that is both thorough in scope but also, is completed expeditiously and goes to the precise issues of what has caused this.
Especially considering the considerable amount of disruption, the distress it has caused, but also the economic impact as well. And to understand what can be done in future by the sector as a whole to take the lessons and mitigate that going forward. This is important because Australians expect that there will be follow-up, that there will be lessons learnt. Importantly for the sector as a whole, it's important to understand how this can be certainly avoided in future.
MILLAR: Yeah, Minister, yesterday you were fronting the cameras before we heard or saw anything from Optus. Were you happy with their lines of communication?
ROWLAND: I made it clear from the outset that consumers were clearly frustrated with the lack of information. Australians are reasonable people. They understand that things need to be resolved and that may take some time.
But the key issue here was getting some understanding of the nature of the problem, how long it may take and what the impacts would be. I think it goes to the issue of how reliant we are on our digital devices and connectivity overall, including for consuming messages and news media.
In this case, the broadcasting platforms were there to be utilised and I did encourage Optus to do that as well. It's pleasing to see that it appears the fault has been rectified, that services appear now to be operating.
But it's important that we keep a watching brief on this and it's important that this post-incident investigation continues that maintenance as well.
MILLAR: Where was the Optus leadership yesterday morning? You were calling for them to speak, you were urging them to do so.
ROWLAND: Well, the most important thing here is always about consumers, and that is what I sought to emphasise and what I continue to emphasise now as Minister. The government is very keen, of course, to ensure that consumers understand their rights that may exist in this case. But most importantly for the Government, is the safety of our citizens and learning that there could have been impacts to the Triple Zero service. Having had briefings with the emergency call person, which is operated by Telstra, and understanding those impacts, communicating that to Australians was of the utmost importance. The ACMA is undertaking its own independent inquiry into compliance there because this is fundamental. Australians need to have confidence in Triple Zero.
It is pleasing to see that the mobile arrangements were working, by and large, for Optus mobile customers. But, of course, it is concerning to see that landline calls from Optus to the Triple Zero service were not getting through.
It's very important that we undertake an investigation into compliance here, but also, again, how improvements can be made into the future to ensure the safety of all Australians.
MILLAR: Yeah, and I want to talk about the telecommunications network in a minute, but let's just speak about customers, because the suggestion was that they'd be rewarded somehow for their patience and loyalty, but that may not include any refunds or compensation. What should customers be expecting, as far as you're concerned?
ROWLAND: I think there is a reasonable expectation from Australians that if they are done wrong, if there is an outage of this nature that causes them to suffer loss in some way, be that economic or otherwise, that corporations will do the right thing by them. And certainly, I urge that in every case from corporate Australia, including this one, I think that there is a reasonable expectation here.
But aside from that, the ACMA has pointed out that some contracts may entitle customers for refunds or rebates, and that the Australian Consumer Law may operate here. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman operates its own complaint scheme, which includes compensation and enforcement of industry codes in that regard as well.
I note that the TIO has urged customers, particularly businesses, to keep receipts to demonstrate where they may have suffered loss so they've got some evidentiary base there. SI think the general principle here is that Australians expect their service providers, when things go wrong, to do the right thing by them. And I think that's a reasonable expectation.
MILLAR: Yeah, so, compensation you're suggesting is the right thing. Can I just quickly, before we have to say goodbye to you, talk about the sharing of networks, because that is now a real live question as to why, in Australia, people who suddenly had no connection for the 12 hours could not be moved on to emergency roaming with Telstra, TPG, another network?
ROWLAND: Recently the ACCC identified that this form of network sharing is feasible, and only in the last couple of days, we announced as a Government that we will be pursuing this with industry to undertake trials. I'm very pleased that the industry is prepared to be involved. But this has been an ongoing question -‘is it feasible?’, and we're going to take this forward as a Government.
MILLAR: Michelle Rowland, thank you for your time this morning.