DOES   government care at all about the quality of services that it provides to taxpayers in exchange for one of the world’s highest overall government tax/charge/rates/duties regimes?

An early indication is the telephone service that rural residents enjoy. A good dose of rain and often lines can become soaked and phone services cut off, putting residents in the position of not being able to report the faults to start the repair process.

When you do manage to convince Telstra that some form of maintenance is in order, they’ll tell you it will take 5 business days – highly inconvenient across weekends and Xmas periods and in any case too long. What happens in the case of an emergency?

When I checked I was told that telecommunications are not defined as an essential service in Australia.

If telecomms aren’t essential, why then are they the first infrastructures to be bombed in hostile actions?

How can we contact essential services without a telephone service?

I recently had cause to move house, and I discovered that I couldn’t get a phone number for days, and a broadband service to enable my business to continue would take an additional 14 business days and cost hundreds of dollars.

What?

I decided to write to the Minister for Broadband, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy. My letter is reprinted below:

The Hon. Stephen Conroy
Federal Minister for Broadband, Telecommunications & the Digital Economy
09/24/08
Re: Classification of telecommunications as a non essential service

Minister,
I write in my capacity as a complex systems consultant trying to run an efficient business, concerned that Australia’s competitiveness and productivity is being seriously impacted by our telecommunications policies and priorities. I hope that the new federal government can address this key issue.

The single issue that I believe needs urgent change, is the determination that telecommunications is not an essential service.

This decision, however it was taken, leads inexorably to:
• major service gaps,
• extended downtimes and other situations that place citizens and businesses at risk,
• needless costs, and
• impairs productivity.

It appears that the decision to declare telecommunications non-essential may have been made to help avoid otherwise costly investments. If so, that is an inadequate reason.
From the perspective of ordinary logic, it is clear that without telecommunications, Australia would be ungovernable. Even a break in service of a few days would create chaos in affected areas. Surely there can be no justification for communities and businesses to adopt that risk exposure. These exposures are further amplified with the risks presented by terrorism, as our single point telecommunications sensitivities create a major set of risks and exposures.

How can people and businesses contact emergency services without telecommunications?

In a modern economy, telecommunications form an essential link between businesses, communities, individuals and governments. I can see how a CEO of Telstra might justify a pay packet of $20 m for an essential service but I cannot see how it would be justified for a service we don’t really need.

In moving our business, I recently had described to me by both Telstra and AAPT the following process for moving a phone service with broadband from one address to another -
1. Identify new address to Telstra or service provider
2. Wait 3 -5 business days for connection and identification of new number – cost up to $299
3. Wait up to an additional 10 – 14 business days for connection to Broadband.

That’s 19 business days of uncertainty about service continuity that can only be eliminated by doubling services at 2 locations at significant expense to businesses, and to homeowners of course.

Such expenses and risks are totally unnecessary and impose significant costs and risks on us all.

In this whole context it is ominous that the website of the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (1) requires a return postal address, offers an email contact system that connects to Windows Live that requires a password and user name, and offers links to a department that returns a ‘can’t find server’ error.

These are not characteristics of a digital economy.

What actions can we in the community take to help convince the government that telecommunications in Australia is in fact an essential service and that taxpayers deserve to have that service so prioritised? And how can we convince the government to provide modern contact services to communicate with the Minister and his department?

Once I had the letter written I discovered that the Digital Economy Minister’s website didn’t work properly (as per above) so I couldn’t contact him.

I finally sent the letter via the Senate contact system on Wed 24 Sept - as at Fri 26 Sept still no fix. Either they don’t want to hear from the public or they don’t want to offer effective electronic services or they are just really slow. Where’s Kev 24/7 when we need him?

What’s the problem?

Are the Rudd government’s policies being undermined by incompetent or subversive staff?

Are their policies just for show?

Is anyone in control and actually able to offer valued services?

Can our politicians even control our public services?

The answer to these questions affects us all.

Check the Minister’s website yourselves and let’s see when/if the government moves to correct the problems.

I’ll publish any replies from the Minister on Tas Times.

Watch this space.

Mike Bolan
http://www.abetteraustralia.com

Mike  is a complex systems consultant, change facilitator and executive/management coach.

1. http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/contact

Mike Bolan

That’s 19 business days of uncertainty about service continuity that can only be eliminated by doubling services at 2 locations at significant expense to businesses, and to homeowners of course. Such expenses and risks are totally unnecessary and impose significant costs and risks on us all. In this whole context it is ominous that the website of the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (1) requires a return postal address, offers an email contact system that connects to Windows Live that requires a password and user name, and offers links to a department that returns a ‘can’t find server’ error.

These are not characteristics of a digital economy.

… Once I had the letter written I discovered that the Digital Economy Minister’s website didn’t work properly (as per above) so I couldn’t contact him.