House debates

Monday, 21 October 2019


National Relay Service

4:00 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Recently, I met with James Fletcher, a resident of Warringah, who is very concerned about the government's move to replace the CapTel handset service. James is one of 4,000 hearing impaired Australians who rely on CapTel to maintain communication with friends, family, government services, clients, business associates, technicians and tradespeople. The existing CapTel service works like any phone, except the caller's voice is changed to text on a small screen attached to the phone, with captions provided by the National Relay Service. From 1 February 2020, the NRS will no longer support the CapTel handset, so users must switch to a teletypewriter in order to receive captured phone calls.

At my meeting with James, he invited me to use this new service. I have to say I was shocked at how difficult, complicated and prone to error it was. From my experience that day and from feedback I have received from James and many others like him, it seems this new service is a step backwards. It is too difficult to use, especially for the elderly. We are facing the very real danger that members of our community who are already in a vulnerable and isolated state are about to lose a very important service and sense of connectivity. I urge the government to reconsider its decision and to discuss with both CapTel's Australian licence holder and Concentrix ways to enable the continued use of the CapTel handset.