Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News Afternoon Agenda with Keiran Gilbert

Subject: Optus CEO Resignation




Kieran Gilbert: Shadow Minister Coleman, thanks for your time. What’s your reaction to the departure of the Optus CEO? Was it the right call by the telco?

David Coleman: Oh, look, it’s not a surprise at all. I mean, obviously, Optus has had a couple of very difficult incidents in the last 12 months, and we wish her well in her future endeavours. The really important thing here now, Kieran, is why did this happen? What exactly happened? Why did 000 fail? Why did the Government oversight of that system not work? And there’s a whole range of questions that need to be answered.

Kieran Gilbert: What’s your fear, though, as to the way that this all unfolded? Let’s start, first of all, with the technical problem. It seems like on the surface a very simple flaw to bring down the whole show for several hours.

David Coleman: Yeah, that’s right, Kieran. And one of the troubling aspects of this is that, as Optus has said, it was triggered by an upgrade by SingTel. And so what that says is an external actor’s changes to the network were able to bring Optus’s network down. And if you think about that from a security perspective, that’s very troubling because what should be the case is that Optus should be in a situation where external actor’s don’t have that level of influence over its network. And the regulatory systems that we have in place around cyber security and so on, one would expect would have foreseen a situation like that. And the fact that it came down in that way it is concerning. And as I say, the fact that 000 failed, there is law that says that should not happen, which is overseen by ACMA and the fact that happened is a very big concern.

Kieran Gilbert: So that’s something that obviously the Government review will look at. The 000 framework which is so important as we know, David Coleman, that millions of Australians every day, to have that safety net in the event of an emergency.

David Coleman: Yeah, that’s right, Keiran. There’s very conflicting stories on this because Optus is basically saying, well, if you look at Kelly Bayer Rosmarin’s testimony from Friday, that effectively from their end they thought it worked or they did what they needed to do. Others in the industry tell a very different story. So on this 000 outage, which affects lives, people call 000 in the most extreme of situations. The situation is as clear as mud as to what actually happened. And again, this isn’t something that only pertains to Optus because this is something that the Government regulates. ACMA’s own website talks about how they monitor this system and clearly that monitoring has been ineffective and it’s something we really need to get to the bottom of in the weeks ahead.

Kieran Gilbert: Don’t you think companies also need to learn from this mess as to how to not manage a crisis? The fact that they didn’t have their leadership out there with, say, one of their technical spokespeople as well, just to reassure that they were moving on it. There were hours, hours of silence, essentially a couple of radio interviews, but no news conference, no briefing. When you’re talking about a major telco, surely the leadership has to take that sort of approach, doesn’t it?

David Coleman: Yeah, well, as I said last week Keiran, we can all agree that it wasn’t a masterclass in corporate communications and clearly the company will learn lessons from that. And I suspect there’ll be people sitting in the corporate communications offices of lots of places in Australia learning from that experience. So that’s a big problem. But the hugely substantive problem in addition to that is 10 million people couldn’t get access to mobile telecommunications and at least 228 people and maybe more wanted to make an emergency call and couldn’t. The system failed. And Minister Rowland and the Government really need to front up. Minister Rowland needs to put in place that inquiry that she talked about a couple of weeks ago. We’re still waiting on the terms of reference for that. So there’s work to be done here because this cannot be allowed to happen again.

Kieran Gilbert: Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, appreciate it.

David Coleman: Thanks, Keiran.