Lame con job on Telstra
The proposed inquiry into rural telecommunications services will be as used a pretext for the National Party to support the full sale of Telstra, a lame con job on the people they purport to represent — rural Australians. They know the privatisation of Telstra means the end of cross-subsidisation of services to rural and remote areas, resulting in increased telephone and other communication charges, and cuts in services, for regional Australians. The Nationals are promoting the Government's "billion dollar package for the bush", trying to placate the concerns of rural voters. But the Communications Division of the CEPU says the focus should be on the growing problems that are already happening in Australia's telecommunications network. The problems arise from major staff cuts and the contracting out and sale of the various Telstra services. The union dismissed the inquiry as shortsighted. Faults in the system had increased and rural areas in particular are bearing the brunt of the deterioration of the network. The outcome in practical terms will be major disruptions to services. For example, the Australian Communications Authority has reported a 13.2 percent increase in faults in the Telstra network during 2000-01, the last time such figures were released. "But there are problems everywhere", said the Communications Division President, Colin Cooper. "For instance, in NSW one in five major cables has no gas in it. All it would take is a heavy storm and there would be outrages all over the state. "And there's just not enough capacity in the local network, city and country, to deal with customer demand. This will become increasingly obvious over the next few years as more people start to demand higher data rates from the copper network." Mr Cooper said that many people in rural areas already have had to pay for boosters to get the 19.2 kilobits per second speeds that the Government had promised them. He said such problems point to a long-term issue of network investment which the Government has no answer to.