Subject: Optus outage
Laura Jayes: We are here in the studios with Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman. David, good to see you. We don’t even know why this happened. That’s got to be the first thing we find out, right?
David Coleman: Yeah, absolutely and it’s disappointing that we don’t know. And Optus needs to communicate very clearly about what happened.
Laura Jayes: Ironic, isn’t it?
David Coleman: Well, obviously, the network’s back up and running, which suggests that the problem was identified. And so, we need to hear what was the problem, how did it happen? What is Optus doing to ensure that it never happens again?
Laura Jayes: I mean, you’ve worked in politics for quite some time, but you were also in the corporate world before you entered politics. Yesterday is really an example of what not to do, isn’t it?
David Coleman: Look, it wasn’t a masterclass in public communication, I think we can all agree on that Laura. But we’ve also got an issue now, which is a very big issue for the Government, which is this issue around compensation.
Laura Jayes: Why is it an issue for the Government?
David Coleman: Well because the Government sets the rules for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and others about how compensation can work.
Laura Jayes: Okay. But those rules would already be in place, wouldn’t it? Are you asking the Government to change the rules just because this had happened?
David Coleman: What I’m asking the Government to do is explain to Australians what happens now. Because people want to know, do I get compensated for this? And if so, how much? And the answer from the Government at the moment is, ‘hands in the air’.
Laura Jayes: I have to say like, what would you say is appropriate in this situation?
David Coleman: I think what needs to happen is clarity from the Government. Where do people go? Do they speak to Optus in the first instance? Do they speak to the Ombudsman? How do they do it? And they need to do that this morning. Because there are millions of people who are asking that question. I mean, if you’re running a small business and you’ve lost thousands of dollars, which for small businesses, is a very big deal. So the consequences of this are really serious and it’s a really important role here for the Government. At the moment, it’s just a lack of clarity and people are angry, as you would expect. And the Government needs to provide clarity on what happens now.
Laura Jayes: Yeah it also goes a little bit beyond that, compensation is important, absolutely. But it’s critical infrastructure. I mean, how does this even happen? How do they not have a backup?
David Coleman: Yeah, look, it is a very serious question for Optus. I mean, this was on a different scale to any other outage we’ve seen. And the big thing, it’s because you have mobile and internet at the same time and a lot of people have a bundle with Optus and so basically all of their communications go down at once.
Laura Jayes: So they can’t even use the internet.
David Coleman: That’s right and they can’t use the phone if they can’t use their internet. So even worse. So a huge problem. But again, what the Government needs to do is explain it. They’ve said there’s going to be an investigation, but at the moment it’s basically an empty shell. The Government needs to get to the bottom of what has occurred here. And, of course, the first step is for Optus to front up and explain what’s happened.
Laura Jayes: Yeah, that’s right. Optus has not done that. They chose a Sydney radio station, they kind of peppered things throughout the day. But there’s no address to the 10 million customers. I don’t even think there’s an email that’s been sent to customers yet saying sorry or explaining it or saying it won’t happen again.
David Coleman: Look, it’s understandable that people would be quite angry. And I think that Optus does need to very clearly come out and say, this is what happened, this is why it isn’t going to happen again. The Government inquiry needs to hold them to account. And importantly, the Government needs to fix up what is a mess at the moment, about this issue of compensation and explain to people what their rights are.
Laura Jayes: I think the real worry here is why this happened in the first place. How this can happen, that you can have fixed and mobile internet, everything just completely cooked for 14 hours. Do you have any idea how that can happen. There are a few theories going around.
David Coleman: I’m not a telco engineer and I think it’s better not to speculate. But clearly what has happened was incredibly serious and shouldn’t have happened. And we have three major telecommunications companies in Australia. This incident doesn’t reflect on the whole system. It reflects on the company to which this has occurred and it’s a very serious incident.
Laura Jayes: Should this be a lesson to other big companies that they can’t be just looking out for their shareholders, they need to look after their customers?
David Coleman: Well, it’s really one and the same Laura, because if you look after your customers, ultimately you are looking after your shareholders.
Laura Jayes: I feel like that’s not the view of Optus this morning.
David Coleman: Well look, I think it’s clear that Optus’s communication has not been up to scratch, it’s clear that this is a really serious incident and it’s very clear that the Government needs to actually explain to people what happens now.
Laura Jayes: Yep, they certainly do. David, good to talk to you.
David Coleman: Thanks Laura.