Tuesday 24 June 2008
Estimates Committee B (Bartlett)

3.3  Management of TASINET and Networking Tasmania
Phone Service – Optus the new provider
Mr FINCH - Premier, I heard you talk before about TASINET and Networking Tasmania, and you have mentioned Postbox at Telstra and the work that goes on with mobile phones.  I notice that the Budget allows an increase in the forward Estimates - and that is probably wise because the more people connect to the mobile phone network, the more they use those phones -

Mr BARTLETT - There is also a growth in the number of services by TASINET - more handsets, more connections effectively.

Mr FINCH - Is the State Government happy with the service that it gets?  It seems that you are always getting concerns from the electorate about their services.

Mr BARTLETT - Well, I could launch into my standard anti-Telstra rave -

Mr WING - Particularly with mobile signals failure - many times on the Midland Highway.

Mr BARTLETT - I have raised it, not only in Parliament but also with very senior people in Telstra just in the last week.  Having said that, I think that the people who work in Telstra in Tasmania do a very good job with what they have got.  They provide us with excellent service and I have never had any problem with the people we deal with and how they go about their business in this State.  They do a terrific job.  But the facts are that not enough investment has gone into broadband and mobile broadband services across Australia, and particularly in regional Australia.  That stems right back to deregulation of telecommunications.  That is why we are investing in and progressing an investment in commercialising the optic fibre assets that we have, because we want to see competition in the telecommunications market in Tasmania where possible.  That will drive prices down and services up for both the community and government.

Mr DEAN - Last year in Estimates the former Premier said he was hopeful of getting better deals with an outsourced provider - he was talking about phone services and telecommunications.  I take it that has not occurred. 

Mr BARTLETT - I am announcing today that Office has been signed up as a government mobile phone provider for the first time in history.  Telecommunications company Optus has been appointed as a new provider of mobile phone services across the Tasmanian Government.  In fact the Government's previous exclusive agreement with Telstra had expired and tenders for one or more suppliers to deliver mobile services were called in September last year.  A new agreement with Telstra is still under negotiation, but the Government has today signed a three-year contract with Optus with an option to extend for another three years.  The contract requires Optus to offer mobile voice and data services to all eligible government agencies and this includes not just calls but also SMS services, Internet connections and e-mail access via mobile phones.  The contract does not guarantee Optus a share of the $4 million spent across government on mobile services, but there are obvious advantages of having more than one provider supplying for government, because people like me and others might choose to change their handset over to a different provider.  That will drive competition in price and a range of other added services.

Agencies will be able to assess the price and product offered by each competitor in making a choice of provider.  Optus prices are considerably cheaper than those currently paid by the Government, so I expect we will see that Telstra will retain a substantial proportion of the total spend because it still has the coverage advantage, but the more revenue we can deliver to Optus the more they are likely to invest in coverage as well.  Optus announced plans to expand its coverage in Tasmania to roll out 3G capability and this is likely to make Optus' service attractive to agencies - and to the Premier. 

Mrs JAMIESON - Congratulations on that announcement. 

CHAIR - Thank you for that scoop, Premier.