Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Back to our top story now, it is Optus, and joining us live is the Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland.

Minister, good to see you, thanks for your time. So, have you been told what happened yet?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: There isn't a definitive statement yet about the precise cause of the outage. From the description of what has occurred and from the scale and scope of the impacts, it does appear that this is an issue in the core network, which is essentially the brains of the Optus network, affecting broadband, fixed line and mobile services.

I note a number of other commentators say that this also appears to be the case, but we look forward to a full description from Optus on that. In the meantime, I have tasked my Department to undertake a post-incident review and knowing the answer to that precise question will be fundamental to ensuring that we take all steps necessary to mitigate this happening across the sector into the future.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, I'll get to the review in a moment. But are they at least in contact with you, regular contact with you?

ROWLAND: Yes, I have spoken to the CEO this morning. There has been regular contact today and over the past 24 hours.


ROWLAND: As you can appreciate, and as I said up front, I thought Optus needed to be transparent with customers because initially when this started occurring, the early hours of yesterday, it was a cause of quite a lot of anxiety, and rightfully so.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, no doubt about that. I mean, the fact that they haven't come out and officially said what happened, though, I mean, either they know and aren't saying or they still don't know exactly what went on. I mean, both of which I would have thought point to some kind of incompetence.

ROWLAND: I think the most important thing here is that services do appear to have been restored because consumers and small businesses have borne the brunt of this, millions of them, right around Australia. Secondly, understanding in particular the impact on the Triple Zero emergency service has been a top priority of mine.

I'm pleased that the ACMA has announced that it is doing an independent assessment of its own into Optus' compliance there and again, to take the lessons learnt about what can be improved in that regard, because the top priority here is to keep Australians safe.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. I mean, it's come to the question of accountability, though, and this is the second time in 13 months that the CEO has been affected. Should she resign?

ROWLAND: I don't want to enter into that commentary, but what I will say is this. Australians are reasonable people and they expect that when there's an outage or some form of disruption like this, that there will be some acknowledgment in some way that is meaningful.

I do know that there are so many consumers who've been impacted in their daily lives, socially. For many people it's also been an emotional time as well. There are also businesses and individuals who've suffered economic loss. I think the most important thing here is ensuring that they are recognised. As I said, I think Australians are reasonable people. We don't want this happening across the sector overall as well. We want to have confidence in our networks.

STEFANOVIC: How does the CEO continue in that job, though, with credibility?

ROWLAND: That's a matter for Optus to determine. As a Government, we are determined to explore what has happened here, take the lessons forward, undertake any necessary regulatory reviews and particularly in terms of Triple Zero, to keep Australians safe.

STEFANOVIC: Is the Government happy using Optus as a carrier?

ROWLAND: I know that there are certain Government Departments and Agencies at all levels who were utilising Optus. I note some of them have made comments that they are looking at alternative suppliers. It is a competitive market. Consumers also have a wide variety of choice of providers these days and I think that individual departments and organisations and consumers will be making their own assessments on that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, but what do you suggest is the make good here? I mean, there's talk of compensation. What do you suggest is the make good to customers?

ROWLAND: Well, I'd say two things. Firstly, I think the overriding principle is that Australians do expect that where they have suffered some harm, that the right will be done by them. I know that Optus is yet to announce details of some sort of rebate or compensation or goodwill package, and I think that many people look forward to an announcement in that regard.

But secondly, as I note, the ACMA has said there are some rights for rebates and refunds depending on people's contracts and the operation of Australian consumer law. The TIO has been urging people to keep receipts as an evidentiary base of loss and people have the right to complain to the TIO. So, I would urge Australians who have been impacted by this to understand that they do have those rights and to utilise them.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, the review that you've announced this morning, just finally, will you make those results public?

ROWLAND: Yes, we will. I think it's important that the terms of reference are sufficiently robust, that go across all of industry as well, and that they are consulted on widely. I'm going to take advice on that, but I think this also needs to be done thoroughly but expeditiously and have recommendations that are capable of implementation. Because ultimately, this is about making these networks that we rely on so much, making sure that they are as resilient as possible.

STEFANOVIC: Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time.