Speech - CommsDay

Good afternoon 

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land we meet – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

I extend my respects to First Nations people here, including Associate Professor Lyndon Ormond-Parker, Co-chair of the Government’s First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group.

Dr Ormond-Parker and Co-Chair Ms Dot West OAM haven’t wasted a second expertly leading the Advisory Group, while engaging with many in this room.

The Advisory Group’s initial report to Government is the culmination of significant work, and is insightful as to how — in partnership with First Nations people — we can narrow the digital divide.

The Albanese Government is already delivering on some of its key recommendations – including funding free community Wi-Fi and associated support services in around 20 remote First Nations communities.

I encourage all of you to attend Dr Ormond-Parker’s address tomorrow to learn how connectivity can be leveraged to improve the lives of First Nations people.

I also acknowledge Ms Nerida O'Loughlin PSM who was recently re-appointed as ACMA Chair, John Stanton who will be stepping down shortly after 14 years as CEO of Communications Alliance, and Rosemary Sinclair, who has announced her intention to step down as auDA CEO later this year.

Each of you has, and I’m confident will continue to, enhance the communications environment with your knowledge and dedication.

Finally, it’s great to be here with so many distinguished industry leaders and public sector representatives today, as well as and my parliamentary colleague, David.


Thank you, Tim for your introduction and Grahame Lynch for bringing us all together again.

It would be remiss of me to not begin today by acknowledging that over the past few weeks we have witnessed tragic events in Bondi and Western Sydney.

On Friday I attended the funeral of Faraz Tahir, a 30-year Ahmadiyya refugee from Pakistan living in Western Sydney,  working on his first day shift as a security guard at Bondi Junction Westfield – only to have his life senselessly taken. 

We mourn Faraz and the other five lives lost in Bondi, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

The posting of violent content from those recent attacks has also elevated public discussion about how best to reduce the exposure of children, and the Australian community to online harms, as well as gender-based violence.

I acknowledge the efforts of eSafety, and its Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, and all public servants doing their best to keep Australians safe. 

I confirm, they have this Government’s 100% support.

Politicians – regardless of political persuasion – have a responsibility to foster civil and respectful debate through their language and choice of words.

Turning to the focus of my speech for today —

Telecommunications is a great enabler that should enrich everyone’s lives – regardless of postcode or circumstance.

Labor’s vision for the National Broadband Network has delivered — and continues to deliver — a significant uplift in connectivity for Australians from all walks of life.

As mobile and NBN technology improves, there is increasing focus from policy makers and the community on the reliability, resilience and security of networks. 

A crippling national outage on the Optus network, and more recently, disruptions to the Telstra-managed Triple Zero service, has highlighted the stakes.


Part of achieving a safer and more secure Australia means taking the initiative to learn and improve when things go wrong.

The Optus outage in November 2023 left millions of Australians without connectivity – impacting consumers, small businesses and their ability to reach the emergency call service.

The Government moved quickly, announcing the following day a Post-Incident Review.

The well-respected Mr Richard Bean, former Deputy Chair of the ACMA, was appointed shortly after.

Mr Bean and his team conducted a thorough examination of the event and his Final Report was provided to the Government at the end of March.

This Review is the first time in over a decade that any Government has conducted a root and branch examination of the entire Triple Zero ecosystem.

Today, the Government has released both the Review and our formal response – consistent with the commitment we made.

I acknowledge the efforts of Mr Bean, the industry’s engagement with the Review, and the support provided by my Department to the process.

One of my highest priorities as Minister is the functionality of Triple Zero.

What we have learnt is the dominant factor which led to thousands of Triple Zero calls not being carried that day was the failure of the Optus 3G network to “wilt”.

Wilting refers to an operational practice where signals are powered down during an outage, to enable emergency calls to be carried by other networks.

The Optus 4G and 5G signals did automatically wilt – however, the 3G signals for voice largely remained on, and this led some handsets to try to route Triple Zero calls through the Optus core network, despite it being down.

Optus has informed the Government this technical issue has now been addressed across its two primary vendors.

However, the event highlighted a broader set of shortcomings with the governance of Triple Zero, and the technical assurance frameworks of industry.

A key finding from Mr Bean’s analysis is that within the Triple Zero eco-system, there is no specific entity that cuts across the various functions played by mobile carriers, the Emergency Call Person, emergency services operators and regulators to ensure the system operates optimally to protect public safety.

Mr Bean noted all participants are well motivated and committed to improving the experience for consumers.

But he found that each of the Triple Zero players, quote: stayed in their lane”, to the point that the system is not as robust or effective as it could be.  It lacks the requisite tension across the participants that helps ensure the public interest is front and centre.

Breaking down these silos is central to ensuring the system works when Australians need it most.

That’s why, in implementing the Report’s recommendation, the Government will establish a Triple Zero Custodian framework with a key role in coordination and decision-making authority during crisis events.

We are not alone in identifying the need to do so: jurisdictions including the United Kingdom and New Zealand are working on establishing similar frameworks.

To support the creation of the Custodian, the Government will work with industry to clarify its scope, functions and powers – to ensure the Custodian can actually work effectively across the system.

Given its consumer focus and expertise in the industry ecosystem, I believe the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is uniquely placed to lead this committee.

As Ombudsman, Cynthia Gebert is someone whom I know the industry respects as a passionate advocate for consumers.  I have asked her to convene the first Steering Committee meeting in the next two weeks. 

I am open minded as to whether the “custodian function” that Richard Bean has recommended could be undertaken by an existing entity, through collaboration between agencies, or if a new authority ought to be established. 

In a similar vein, the outage demonstrated the need to elevate established protocols to ensure industry is more accountable and information flows are better coordinated.

For this reason, the Government will direct the ACMA to either develop a new industry standard, or amend the Emergency Call Service Determination, to mandate the sharing of key information between telcos, relevant emergency services organisations, and other entities during crisis situations.

I expect these rules to be in place within 12-18 months, to give Australians confidence the flow of information gets to where it needs to be.

New rules will also be developed by the ACMA to require a mandatory reporting framework when major outages occur.

Supplementing mandatory reporting requirements will be an obligation on carriers to identify how they may prevent similar outages from occurring again, with detailed work plans to be submitted to the regulator and my Department.

Mandatory steps are needed because, as Mr Bean found, the voluntary protocols were not followed.  

I expect the first of these enforceable standards and determinations to be in place as soon as is possible, with my strong expectation that significant progress will be made this year.  

In addition to industry, there is an important role for self-reflection here across government, regulators and departments, too.

The Australian Government and the ACMA will review all legislation and regulations relating to the Triple Zero service – with a public commitment to conclude the review over the next six months.

In summary, the actions the Government will now take on Triple Zero include:

  • Implementing all 18 recommendations from the Bean Review 
  • Fixing network wilting vulnerabilities; 
  • Standing up the TIO-led Triple Zero custodian framework;
  • Directing the ACMA to uplift voluntary protocols for communicating to emergency services and customers during and after major outages; and 
  • Having my Department commence a review of the Triple Zero contractual arrangements.

By implementing these measures, we can give Australians confidence that this industry – which does incredible work connecting millions of Australians – will be more focused on Triple Zero than ever before.

That must be central to any understanding of an Australia that is safe and secure.


Moving now to the progress being made on temporary disaster roaming.

Australia is a vast, natural disaster-prone nation and climate change is only going to make the frequency and severity of natural disasters worse.

That presents significant challenges for our industry – and we’ve seen countless examples in recent months.

The wild weather event in Victoria that disrupted entire networks due to significant power outages, and the flooding and cyclone events in our Far North that downed towers and services are cases in point.

There is certainly a live question as to how best to keep mobile networks operating in those circumstances. I am pleased that we have successfully allocated nearly $17.5 million in funding through our Telecommunications Disaster Resilience Innovation Program. 

Our $20 million Broadcasting Resilience Program is also continuing apace, with around 29 ABC radio sites in at-risk communities receiving back-up power upgrades to date.

I’ve welcomed work by the independent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to consider the role that temporary roaming may have in the context of natural disasters.

I have been pleased with the constructive approach taken by industry to this important issue. 

In October last year, the Minister for Emergency Services and I tasked my Department and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) with scoping just how a temporary disaster roaming capability might be implemented in Australia.

Their work has led to incredibly promising signs, following consultation with industry, emergency services, and other stakeholders.

The industry’s Working Group has developed a technical solution, and Telstra has simulated how telcos could deploy this essential capability.

In my recent visit to Mobile World Congress, I met with the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ms Jessica Rosenworcel, and discussed: 

  • the criteria for activation;
  • how long roaming arrangements are stood up; and
  • expectations on the use of mobile networks by consumers when they access temporary roaming.

It was incredibly constructive, and highlighted that the technical solutions exist – we just need to have the determination to put them in place.

The Government will continue to work through these questions in a methodical way with the industry Working Group.

We want to see this capability succeed and are steadfastly committed to making it happen.

The community’s expectation for having connectivity during emergency events has increased, and will continue to do so. 

This goes beyond access to Triple Zero — it also means being able to contact neighbours to help with evacuations, or loved ones to let them know you are okay.

I look forward to continuing our collaboration on the development and deployment of temporary disaster roaming with industry, and remain optimistic industry can achieve a workable capability by the end of the year.

New technology continues to emerge to enhance Australian’s safety and security. LEOSats are very much a potential game changer for the way direct to device functionality could operate anywhere on the continent and also by-pass the power requirements that are needed for our terrestrial network. 

That is why I recently extended the LEOSat Working Group that I established in 2022, the work of which will also inform the Regional Telco Inquiry and USO reform that is well underway.


The switchover of 3G by Telstra, Optus and TPG Telcom is a commercial decision by industry to support the better use of technology. 

The Australian Government supports the switchover, to enable this evolution in the long term interests of end users. But let me be clear — it needs to be done in a safe and consumer-focused way.

This has been planned for some time with Telstra first announcing its intention to switch over its 3G network in 2019.

A key concern for Government is a subset of 4G-enabled devices configured by the manufacturer to default to 3G for emergency voice calls. 

When 3G is switched over, users of these 4G devices may mistakenly believe their handset remains fit for purpose. 

They would only realise calls to Triple Zero do not work when they can least afford to find out.

I am concerned and disappointed that the scale of this problem only became apparent because of Government enquiries.

When I was first briefed by my Department in early March the estimate was that up to 740,000 4G handsets may not be able to make emergency calls following the switchover.

Following this, the Government moved quickly to have industry establish a new Working Group.

I acknowledge the CEOs of Telstra, Optus, TPG and AMTA who have all been personally engaged with me on my concerns, and I thank them for their constructive approach. 

It is imperative that industry and government work together in the interests of consumers.

Australians still do not have enough awareness of this problem but progress is being made. 

Over the past month, in particular, industry has bolstered its efforts to reach affected consumers through direct outreach, as well as spreading the message through community groups and organisations.

Industry has also provided easier ways for people to check if their devices might be impacted, including Telstra’s SMS checking tool and a shared industry webpage where all customers can go for the latest information on the planned 3G switch over (www.3gclosure.com.au).

While I mentioned, industry initially estimated the number of affected 4G devices to be 740,000, this figure was revised to one million, but recently been revised to approximately 395,000, which still remains far too large.

Options exist under law for the Government to consider proposals to delay the planned switch over, subject to consultation and procedural processes. 

I won’t get ahead of considerations for such processes, but the mobile carriers understand that the Government’s priority is public safety. 

As I have said privately and publicly — I will consider all options warranted in the public interest.

My key message to Australians with older devices is to visit your carrier’s website for more information, or contact them directly if you are still unsure.


Friends, it would be fair to say 2024 has gotten off to a frenetic start in the communications portfolio.

Since being given the privilege to serve as Communications Minister, delivery on our reform agenda has been substantial: 

 NBN has expanded fibre access to a further 2.1 million homes and businesses since the 2022 election, and the fibre upgrade program is progressing on the timetable and within the budget that we committed to at election.

  • NBN Co, in partnership with retail service providers, Anglicare Victoria and other nominating organisations, has connected over 11,000 families with school children living at home with free internet access at part of our School Student Broadband Initiative.
  • The Government has announced $190.2 million in funding for 243 projects through our Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia for 62 new mobile base stations; 74 place-based telecommunications infrastructure projects; and 107 ABC broadcast sites.
  • The Government has delivered more reform in 24 months to reduce gambling harms than in the last ten years, including the establishment of BetStop, legislating a ban on betting using credit cards for online wagering, introducing tag-lines in advertising and new mandatory minimum classifications for video games with gambling-like features, which will commence in September this year. 
  • The Government has quadrupled base-funding for our online safety regulator.
  • The ACMA has launched the trial of an SMS sender ID registry to help stop scammers from spoofing trusted brand names, and the telecommunications industry has blocked an estimated 1.8 billion scam calls and 443 million texts since industry rules were introduced.
  • We are seeing scams losses drop for the first time since 2016, with the latest Targeting Scams report showing that scam losses decreased by 21 per cent in the second half of 2023 compared to the first half of the year – following the creation of the National Anti-Scam Centre.  But research tells us that Australians lost around $2.7 billion through scams in 2023, so there is still more to do.
  • NBN Co has landed a Special Access Undertaking with the ACCC, establishing a long-term framework for the regulation of NBN wholesale pricing, reduced wholesale costs on NBN’s two cheapest plans, and a set path to phase out CVC charges.
  • Following extensive consultation between the business, its workforce and the Government, we are now delivering structural reform to the Australia Post delivery model to boost productivity, the most significant of its kind in over thirty years.
  • We have commenced a USO reform process and Regional Telecommunications Review that is genuinely outcomes focused.
  • In the face of ongoing cost of living pressures, the ACMA has established a Financial Hardship Standard to ensure vulnerable Australians have access to better support when they can’t pay their bills.

Our work agenda for the remainder of this term is deliberate, methodical and aligned with our priorities of better connecting the regions, improving the safety of Australians, protecting our democracy and delivering difficult reforms.

We are delivering for Australians and that will remain our focus.

I thank you all for your collaboration in what I know is a shared task, to keep working together so all Australians are safe, informed and connected.

Thank you.