Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

ACCAN—Meet the People—Parliament House, Canberra

23 February 2016

6.30pm

E & OE

FIFIELD:

Johanna thank you so much for that welcome, and can I acknowledge the leadership that you provide as Chair. Also, Teresa as the Chief Executive who's so well known to all of us, great to be with you. And if I could acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues who are here through Jason Clare, who's my Opposition counterpart. And at the risk of bringing the spirit of bipartisanship from my previous portfolio of disabilities here, can I genuinely say it is a pleasure to work with Jason across the aisle on a range of issues.

Well friends, I think we all agree that if ACCAN didn't exist as an organisation it would have to be invented. And in fact, that's what happened when a number of organisations that came together in 2009 to provide a genuinely broad-based communications consumer representative organisation, that represented consumers and small business, and not for profit organisations. In my previous portfolio of disabilities, ACCAN was a terrific resource for me and a terrific source of advice. So thank you very much for that.

I guess we're here today to launch Top Tips for Phones and the Internet, because the world for consumers is complex. When I was growing up, there weren't mobile phones, there weren't broadband plans, there really was no danger of bill shock.

You had a landline. And if you were going to call interstate or to the regions, you had a special number, which was the prefix before you dialled. And just in case you missed that, there were the STD pips, to make sure that you knew that it was going to be a higher bill. And I think we all have memories of standing in a huddle with mum or dad on the phone to grandma or granddad or an uncle or an aunt passing the phone around, because we had to speak quickly, because we knew it was really going to cost. So there was no danger of bill shock when many of us were growing up.

Obviously, we are in an entirely different world now. We have fabulous new options in terms of how to communicate, how to connect, how to stay in touch and it's fabulous and that's great. Communicating long distance and staying in touch is cheaper, relatively, compared to the days of STD phone calls. But while it's cheaper, it's cheaper and better if you're well informed and if you know what your options are, and if you know what the traps are. Whether it be from scammers, whether it be from particular organisations not being as upfront about the costs of their services as they might be. So it's really important that we have information that is clear, that is easy, and that is accessible.

This is a good week for this gathering, because we have had the Government's response to the RTIRC report, for those who are plugged into the acronyms in the portfolio.

Essentially, it's the Government response to the Review of Regional Telecommunications services. And some important things have come out of that, including the need to review the Universal Service Obligations. And we've announced that we will have a Productivity Commission inquiry into that. To make sure that the USO is fit for purpose, and reflects the world that we live in. It was developed for a fixed line world. That's not the world we live in. Also, the department will be examining the consumer protections and safeguards. So they're two really important things, which are going to happen, and which will be seriously important to the structure and the architecture of the telecommunications industry.

I do want to point out something very important. As I was looking at these brochures, particularly the one: 'What affects the quality of my broadband?' I was able to identify, as someone who lives in the inner north of Melbourne, that the figure on the front of the brochure is indeed a beared 'hipster'. It is the real deal. The real article. I live in the inner north of Melbourne, so I know. In fact, I had a beard until not too long ago, so some of you may recall.

Can I congratulate ACCAN for this important work, this good work, for producing material that is really accessible. And I've already directed my office to make sure that we have heaps of copies of these, they will be useful as we're out and about, but they'll also be particularly useful for our colleagues too, I think Jason. So congratulations ACCAN. Good work. And it gives me great pleasure to officially launch Top Tips for Phones and the Internet. Thanks very much.

[ends]

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