MAYOR WANTS EXPLANATION FROM TELSTRA
MAYORS from across the Western District met with Telstra representatives in Warrnambool last Friday in a bid to get some answers to the telecommunications disaster that cut the district from the remainder of the country for more than a week.
Casterton residents and businesses were hit extremely hard by the telecommunications meltdown that cut all services in the region for more than seven days. However, some areas such as Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland started to receive some services by the end of last week.
Casterton was still affected at the weekend and many residences started to run out of patience because they received little or no ongoing feedback from Telstra as to when services would return to normal.
Glenelg Shire mayor Cr Karen Stephens said the public was demanding reassurances it won’t happen again.
“First of all we have to go right back to the beginning – to be left without emergency services is critical to the community and that’s the first question that has to be answered,” she told the Portland Observer.
“We have areas here in the Glenelg Shire that don’t have mobile reception and now they don’t have landlines, so what are they going to do with those people? That includes Merino, Digby, Wando Vale and areas north of Casterton.
“We still don’t have email here in Casterton, but if you were in Melbourne and listening to what Bill Mundy (Telstra spokesman) was saying, you would think everything is okay and, as far as Melbourne is concerned, everything’s back online and that’s not true,” she said.
Cr Stephens even questioned the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, which released its lengthy recommendations back in 2010.
“It is extremely interesting that the Black Saturday inquiry set out all these recommendations about emergency management but at the end of the day, it never took into account communications,” Cr Stephens told the Hamilton Spectator.
“Telstra is trying to get away with making these broad statements and say every region is fixed and all is well, but I know of some smaller businesses that are still doing it tough.”
Glenelg Shire Council will also write to the Member for Wannon Dan Tehan and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy after Cr Geoff White moved a motion in urgent business at last Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Cr White said the impact on small business needed to be addressed by the Federal Government.
Cr Gilbert Wilson said it was crucial that the government learns a lesson from the disaster.
“We need to make sure it doesn’t happen again in this region,” he said. “Imagine if this happened inCanberra, God help them.”
A public forum is likely to be held in Warrnambool as part of a federal inquiry that has been organised by the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, according to Mr Conroy.
The inquiry would “investigate the cause of the fire and the lessons that can be learned to prevent such an event occurring again”.
Mr Tehan said he would push to have forums inPortland and Hamiltonas well as Warrnambool.
The inquiry will focus on the cause of the fire, future fire prevention, the distribution of interim services in an emergency and services provided to business.
Compensation for affected business will not be addressed at the inquiry, according to Mr Tehan.
“The issue of compensation was discussed but the case for compensation will be a matter between Telstra and their customers and, therefore, may or may not be a legal issue,” he said.
Mr Mundy said Telstra welcomed the inquiry.
“We as an organisation are concentrating on reconnection but once that’s completed we will conduct our own internal inquiry, which will be used to provide support to the Federal Government,” he said.