Many consumers will now be able to contact key services of the Department of Human Services free from charge under a new contract between the government and Telstra.
The new contract, which was announced on the June 25, contains provision for Telstra to be the sole provider of telecommunications to the Department of Human Services.
Under this contract Telstra will provide the telecommunications need for all of the organisations within the department including Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support.
A core element of the new contract is that customers using a Telstra mobile will be able to call the indigenous, income management and child protection, Basics Card, Rural Agent or ABSTUDY lines free from charge.
However the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Teresa Corbin, told Fairfax Media that their question ‘is what happens to Optus, Vodafone, and all other providers’ customers who will continue to pay high rates to contact government departments until 2015?’.
Despite these concerns The Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Senator Kim Carr was upbeat about the new contract stating that it will position the department to deliver more convenient, modernised methods for communication with the community as a whole, in line with the expectations of the digital age.
Senator Carr said that the new contract will modernise services which ‘will allow all calls, email, SMS and other multi-media contacts to be automatically distributed through a central system across the network to the right staff with the right skills to help’.
The new contract will see Telstra providing all of the services by merging voice, mobile and data services under one provider, for the first time in the department’s history.
The department also announced that a new centralised scheduling system would be introduced that will help to manage the high levels of demand during peak times.
With a large amount of the changes from this new contract to be brought in by the end of the year, many consumers will receive better, and in some cases free, access to these services.