Mayors call on governments to recognise impact on Telstra outage

Federal and state government responses to the south-west over the Telstra crisis will demonstrate how the region is valued, according to Glenelg Shire mayor Karen Stephens.

Cr Stephens, together with Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh, Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor and Moyne Shire councillor James Purcell met yesterday with South West Coast MP Denis Napthine, Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Telstra regional manager Bill Mundy.

The group toured the burnt-out Koroit Street exchange and were briefed on the situation.

After the inspection Cr Stephens said she was overwhelmed by the enormous task Telstra had ahead. 

She said community frustration deepened when premature messages were put out that everything was back to normal.

“I understand Telstra wants to put a positive spin on it and say we’re back up and running, but the reality on the ground is when Telstra is saying we’re at 80 per cent capacity, but you can’t ring your hospital or your council, your credibility starts to diminish.”

She said Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy needed to see what was happening in the south-west.

“I think the response we get from the government will tell us how much we’re valued by the state and federal governments,” she said.

Cr Stephens said Telstra was fortunate the outage had happened in the south-west because of the resilience of the communities.

Cr Purcell said it was important there was a lesson learnt from the crisis.

“The thing that probably stood out to me the most was the complexity and the amount of cabling they need to hook back up,” he said.

“It’s much more difficult than I thought it was going to be. If we learn a lesson as a country that through fire or through sabotage you can wipe out a whole area.

“I think we need to learn that we must have a better back-up system.” Cr Purcell said if there was a bigger voter base or Wannon was a more marginal seat the region would be treated differently.

Cr O’Connor said he didn’t see the need for Ms Gillard and Mr Conroy to visit the region.

“I don’t think they’ve got anything to bring to the situation. I think it has been quite chaotic but I think Telstra have got it in hand.

“I hope it’s on their radar, certainly, so it doesn’t happen again. They could learn lessons from it (but) I don’t think high-profiled politicians are necessarily going to make the situation better.”

He said once the situation was over it was important for Telstra to follow up with all customers.

Cr Neoh said the community and workers on the ground would have appreciated a visit by a representative from the federal government.

He said he didn’t think the national and broader community understood the full effects of the outage.

cquirk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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