Telstra says no to free emergency texts.
Telstra says no to free emergency texts.

‘Disgraceful’: Telstra hits back over disaster texts

TELSTRA'S boss says the Queensland government's suggestion that disaster warning texts should be provided free was "ridiculous" and "disgraceful".

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said this morning that the telco sent out more than 1.2 million texts to Queensland residents during the recent bushfire crisis as part of a commercial contract signed off on by the state government. He rejected outright Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's assertion that the service should be free.

"We provide the Queensland government with very significant technology and telecommunications networks - at their request we provide those services to them, so to suggest that Telstra's responsibility then to provide that for free is ridiculous," he told ABC radio.

"We put in place the telecommunications infrastructure under contracts required by the Queensland government, requested by the Queensland government, and obviously that cost money so we get paid for that.

"How we get paid for that is function of those commercial arrangements agreed on by the Queensland government, so then to come back later and say by the way we don't want to pay for this, that's disgraceful."

Telstra has hit back at claims it should provide the emergency text service used during recent Queensland bushfires for free.
Telstra has hit back at claims it should provide the emergency text service used during recent Queensland bushfires for free.

Ms Palaszczuk said she will raise the issue with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Adelaide today.

Sending those texts was a community service, the technology was simple and it shouldn't be expensive, she said.

"We shouldn't now have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the emergency alert systems," she told reporters.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said the contract with Telstra needed to be revisited so taxpayers would not have to foot the bill for a life-saving service.

"We believe that this should be a community service arrangement by either the federal government or by Telstra or a combination of the both of them, but we don't believe that taxpayers in a state should have to pay for a commercial arrangement," he told ABC radio.

"Telstra is making money out of this and it's not appropriate that Telstra is making money out of Queenslanders in their time of need."

Mr Crawford said he did not know what Telstra's profit margin would be on this service.

He said the government was expected to send out numerous more text alerts over the next week as Cyclone Owen crosses the coast, bringing forecast heavy rain and destructive winds.



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