Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2019


National Relay Service

12:10 pm

Photo of Anne UrquhartAnne Urquhart (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

  (i.) the National Relay Service (NRS) allows deaf and hearing impaired Australians to make and receive telephone calls through the use of text relay services,

  (ii.) the NRS can be accessed through different options including CapTel, teletypewriters, SMS and internet relay,

  (iii.) the Federal Government has decided to end access to CapTel for NRS users as of 1 February 2020,

  (iv.) CapTel currently carries up to 60% of total call minutes generated by users who rely on the NRS,

  (v.) according to Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey, the number of Australians over the age of 65 who are deaf or hearing impaired has increased from 1.016 million in 2012 to 1.211 million in 2018,

  (vi.) the Federal Government is reducing operational funding to the NRS from $27.7 million to $22 million per annum – a reduction of 20%, and

  (vii.) up to 3,500 elderly Australians, some whom live alone, currently rely on CapTel to stay in touch with family and friends, and to access emergency services;

(b) further notes that:

  (i.) the average age of a CapTel user is 82 years old,

  (ii.) many elderly deaf Australians impacted by this decision consider CapTel is the best technology to support their communications needs,

  (iii.) the Federal Government did not consult CapTel users on its decision, and

  (iv.) the Federal Government is seeking to force many CapTel users onto teletypewriters – in 2016, the Department of Communications referred to this technology as 'legacy' and sought views on phasing it out;

(c) condemns the Federal Government for not consulting elderly CapTel users, or their concerned family members, before making a decision that would affect their welfare; and

(d) calls on the Federal Government to stop imposing inferior communications options on CapTel users, and instead consult the community to find the best outcome.

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.