Please note: absentjustice.com is a work in progress last edited in November 2018
It is important to advise newcomers to absentjustice.com that various exhibits are linked in the text: for example, Front Page Part One File No/1, Main Evidence File No/3 or Prologue Evidence File 1-A to 1-C. Clicking on these links with your cursor will automatically open a PDF of the exhibit. By using this method and following the various file nos discussed in our various pages (see menu bar above) you will be able to verify our story. Without those documents, most people would really struggle to believe that the Casualties of Telstra (COT for short) claimants have actually lived through these appalling events.
Sadly, corruption and collusive practices are rife in the Australian ‘Establishment’ and this terrible situation prevents us from telling our story in a brief way. We therefore have no real option left open to us other than to split our various stories as our menu bar shows.
We have set up the menu bar to draw attention to those sections that particularly expose at least one major crime that was committed during the COT arbitrations because those crimes have still never been addressed, even though the government was first alerted to them twenty-two years ago. absentjustice.com – Call For Justice, together with the related PDF exhibits that support that part of the story, clearly explains how the Australian Establishment closed ranks and decided to ignore the documents that supported the truth of our claims because they were only interested in protecting Telstra and the government-appointed arbitration consultants, regardless of how that decision (to not investigate our claims) would destroy the lives of innocent Australian citizens – the members of COT.
My name is Alan Smith. My story started in 1987 when I decided my life at sea, where I had spent the previous 20 years, was over. I needed an occupation to see me through to my retirement years and beyond. Of all the places in the world I had visited, I chose to make Australia my home.
My business is hospitality, and I had always dreamed of running a school holiday camp. Imagine my delight when I saw the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp and Convention Centre advertised for sale in The Age. It was located in rural Victoria, near the small maritime port of Portland. Everything seemed perfect. I performed my ‘due diligence’ to ensure that the business was sound; or at least, all of the due diligence I was aware I needed to perform. Who would have thought to check whether the phones worked? Within a week of taking over the business, I knew I had a problem. Customers and suppliers alike were saying they had tried to call and couldn’t get through to me.
Other independent business people, similarly affected by poor telecommunications, have joined me on my journey. Collectively, we became known as the Casualties of Telecom, or the COT cases. All we wanted was for Telecom/Telstra to admit to the issues, fix them and pay compensation for our losses. A working phone: is that too much to ask?
How, when the COT Four presented their dispute to the government, they were manipulated, pressured and squeezed into an unfair and costly arbitration.
How Telstra and its legal defence team perverted the course of justice in the arbitration process by such dubious strategies as intercepting faxes and conversations (bugging), failing to deliver crucial FOI documents (or delivering them months and even years too late, often so highly censored that little intelligible remained), even destroying documentary evidence and fabricating evidence.
How central points in my claim at arbitration were ignored by the arbitrator and how no amount of effort to have these points addressed bore any fruit.
How, in the course of all these travesties, the regulatory bodies — Austel (for the government) and the TIO (for the carriers) — failed to exercise any control over Telstra to the point where they could reasonably be seen as acting in concert.
Together, these travesties spell a break-down of justice, way out of proportion to the problem we began with — people asking that their phone services be guaranteed to work to a reasonable standard so that they can reliably conduct their businesses.
What is the nature of the faults we are talking about? Customers or potential customers try to ring you, only to get a dead line, or for the phone to ‘ring’ without being picked up as if no-one was there; or to be met by a recorded announcement saying the number is not connected at all. And when calls do connect, for the connection to drop out, as they might these days on a mobile, but this is landlines we are referring to. Faxes missing in the network, or only blank sheets arriving.
Each of the COT members assumed, as most telephone users would assume, that their phone faults would be quite easily found and fixed by Telstra’s skilled technicians. But ‘No fault found’ was the constant refrain, and the problems continued unabated throughout the course of our arbitrations, and for years afterwards, with disastrous effects on our businesses. This seemed incomprehensible: everyone had a phone, the system is supposed to work for everyone. What was going on?
And why did it seem everyone was protecting Telstra, turning a blind eye to what was unlawful behaviour? Withholding important discovery documents in an arbitration procedure is unlawful. Tampering with evidence in an arbitration is unlawful. Relying on defence documents which are known to be falsified (see Telstra’s Falsified BCI Report and Telstra’s Falsified SVT Report in an arbitration, is unlawful. Phone tapping of conversations without a warrant is unlawful. Someone within Telstra must have authorised this criminal conduct. The TIO, and Austel often enough, refused to act; Members of Parliament when in Opposition were happy to provide support for the COT cause, but as soon as the government was theirs, that support vanished. No-one was prepared to make Telstra accountable. It was enough to make the most level-headed person suspect conspiracies.
During the infamous UK phone-hacking scandal (see opposite), the Daily Mirror printed an apology in that newspaper, admitting that “such behaviour represented an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion into people’s private lives”. Why hasn’t the Australian government compensated the COT Cases who clear proof that: an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion into their private and business lives during their arbitrations ruined any chance they had of having a proper assessment of their arbitration claims i.e. an arbitration process originally endorsed by the government?
The COT cases should never have been forced into arbitration while the Australian Federal Police (AFP) was investigating Telstra for unauthorised phone and fax hacking issues. Evidence showing in-confidence COT cases privileged client to lawyer and arbitration procedural documentation was hacked into during the COT arbitrations as our Australian Federal Police Investigations segment shows.
Telstra clearly achieved their objective, which was to ensure that NONE of the intercepted singles club material that Telstra employees intercepted went before Dr Hughes (arbitrator) for assessment. Had the arbitrator’s technical resource unit viewed, as part of their evaluation process, the 26 September 1994 transcripts, prepared by the AFP and showing the AFP indeed uncovered evidence showing Telstra was intercepting my telephone conversations without my authorisation, they would have seen the AFP findings proved my claim was correct (See Front Page Part Two File No/2). Had the arbitrator allowed the consultants to address my singles club loss of business they would have uncovered the fax interception. With this evidence, alone, Dr Hughes would have had to make an award against Telstra concerning these matters. He also would have to accept my singles club members’ privacy was also violated, as well my own. Viewing this evidence, which the AFP uncovered, meant that he would have to accept that I was indeed running two businesses and that Ferrier Hodgson Corporate Advisory (the arbitration financial resource unit) was grossly negligent in their reporting by ignoring 47 per cent of my clientele, i.e., the singles club members. My revenue loss, from the much-higher tariff of those patrons should have been included in their final report as the following information shows.
I was aware Ferrier Hodgson Corporate Advisory (FHCA) and Dr Hughes also collaborated with Telstra in ensuring my singles club (my second business) would not be assessed as a separate business loss and did not take into account the higher revenue loss of my single club dollar, but only valued my losses at the lower tariff I charged for school groups. However, I wanted something more substantial – perhaps the actual working notes, which were removed from the FHCA report under instruction by Dr Hughes (see Open letter File No/45-E), and would have detailed my singles club information that I provided FHCA in February 1995. This single club material was never returned to me after my arbitration was finalised. The losses associated with my singles club patronage (which were never taken into account by the arbitrator) are also discussed in the Front Page Part Two page.
Single Club Losses Ignored
The final FHCA financial report only provides statistics from the school-camp bookings for valuing my losses (see Chapter Two / Prologue. page There is no reference, at all, to profits from the adult social club and singles-club bookings, even though they made up 47 per cent of my business and were charged more than four times the school rate. I discovered, when FHCA eventually returned my claim documents, FHCA had a number of my singles club flyers, along with copies of various newspaper adverts regarding the adult weekends and copies of numerous testimonials from prospective adult patrons explaining their frustration at not being able to contact my venue by phone to make bookings. But, the more detailed calculation of the type of revenue earned from these single club weekends were not amongst that returned information. My Hotel/Motel Manager’s Diploma awarded to me in May 1976 was officially provided to the arbitration process by my claim advisor Garry Ellicott and business partner Barry O’Sullivan (now the Hon Senator Barry O’Sullivan). This diploma was also not returned to me after the conclusion of my arbitration. So many relevant testimonials supplied to the arbitration process simply disappeared as Chapter One /Prologue page shows.
On page seven of its final, 3 May 1995, financial-evaluation report, which both Telstra and I received, Ferrier Hodgson Corporate Advisory state:
“An analysis of the clientele of CBHC [Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp] shows that only 53% were in fact schools.” (See Open Letter File No 57-A to 57-D)
There is an enormous difference between $30.82 for a two-night stay for school groups and $120.00 to $165.00 for a two-night stay for social-club patrons. Knowingly downgrading my losses by a large percentage is verging on fraudulent criminal conduct.
The potential patrons’ testimonials are also referred to in the AUSTEL report, of 3 March 1994:
“As Mr Smith points out, the RVA message had the potential to severely damage his business. An important point in relation to the possible financial impact of the RVA message on the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp service is the camp’s dependence on group bookings. In June 1992 the camp tariffs ranged from $1500 to $6000 per week, so the loss of even one booking because of the RVA problem could mean a substantial financial loss.” (See p33, point 85, Open Letter File No/6)
I was also able to demonstrate to AUSTEL, when their representatives visited my venue, that singles club customers would regularly buy souvenirs before they left: purchasing printed Cape Bridgewater t-shirts, sweatshirts, postcards, headscarves and crafted driftwood plant arrangements. Schoolchildren didn’t have that sort of money and typically only bought postcards. FHCA ignored all the income I lost from lost singles-club bookings, i.e., the profit I made on the souvenirs as well as the $120 to $165 tariff per person for these customers.
John Rundell of FHCA statement to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (see Open letter File No/45-E) that “FHCA had excluded a large amount of information from their final report at the request of the arbitrator”, ties in with the excluded single club material and my Echo tourism venture losses which I provided, under confidentiality, to FHCA in February 1995, when it visited my business. The submitting of this singles club evidence into arbitration under confidentiality is discussed in the various pages in Chapter Two / Prologue and Chapters Three and Four / Australian Federal Police Investigations
When Telstra stopped me from submitting that singles club material as part of my claim, on 11 October 1994, it had a dual domino effect on my overall losses: Telstra did not have to address the evidence of intercepting my telephone conversation.Telstra minimised their liability by not having to pay out the losses of the revenue I lost due to singles club patrons being unable to contact my venue at will.Telstra did not have to answer to the arbitrator why they were intercepting faxes during the arbitration process. Open Letter File No/12, and File No/13 show arbitration documents were intercepted during the COT arbitrations.
There should have been NO arbitration until the Australian Federal Police (AFP) completed its findings. No other Western nation allows two legal processes to run at the same time (i.e., the AFP investigation as well as arbitration) as one impedes upon the other. This is exactly what happened. It was unconstitutional to force a citizen into this type of no win situation. Even worse, if that is at all possible, once I began to assist the AFP in their interception investigations Telstra stopped supplying my requested FOI documents.
In 1999, while I was working on the draft of Cape Bridgewater – My Story, I provided it to Rupert Murdoch’s sister, Helen Handbury. She was aghast at the blatant denial of natural justice that I had received. Helen twice visited my holiday camp and, after reading the draft, stated that she would have Rupert publish it. She believed he would be shocked.
Helen was astounded at the amount of evidence I had accumulated, proving how long I had been troubled by illegal fax hacking, as well as the discrimination I had received by those who had administered the process.
Of course, 1999 was before the hacking scandal linked to the News of the World.
Unfortunately, Helen died in 2004. Some years later, on 26 September 2012, I sent a draft of the original version of Cape Bridgewater – My Story to her husband, Geoff Handbury, and told him about my conversation with Helen. I asked whether he could suggest the best way for me to get a copy of the book to Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Handbury replied on 17 October 2012 in a handwritten letter (with beautiful, old-fashioned penmanship that we no longer see). However, he was then 87 years old and although highly respected for his philanthropic support of many worthwhile projects in Victoria, too much time had passed and, sadly, he wasn’t able to help. Still, I have the memory of how the sister of the biggest newspaper-owner in the world believed my “intriguing story” was certainly one that her brother should publish and I’m grateful for her comments.
NONE of the COT Cases were ever on a terrorist list in 1994 (or since, for that matter) and nor were any of us ever listed as suspects in relation to any crimes committed against any Australian citizens. This means that we must therefore ask: why were these innocent claimants’ in-confidence arbitration and Telstra-related documents hacked by Telstra while Telstra was defending the various COT cases arbitrations? In my own case, 42 separate sets of correspondence faxed to the Arbitrator’s office (some with attachments) are not listed on the Arbitration Schedules of Material received by the Arbitration process. It is clear from Front Page Part One File No/1 that even though the Arbitrator’s secretary advised Tony Watson (part of Telstra’s Arbitration Defence Unit) that on 23 May 1994, six of my claim documents were never received at the Arbitrator’s fax machine. It is clear from my Telstra account I was charged for those six faxes as having left my office, yet no one from the Arbitrator’s office nor the TIO’s office when this matter was exposed, allowed me to amend my claim so that these proven “non received” claim documents were valued by the Arbitrator in support of my claim.
In early March 1994 and prior to my arbitration, AUSTEL advised me it had provided NINE audio tapes to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirming Telstra employees recorded audio tapes of COT cases’ conversations (See Illegal Interception File No/3). On 7 and 8 April 1994, the COT cases were advised by AUSTEL that it was mandatory that we assist the AFP with our interception issues because the AFP was officially appointed by the government to investigate the COT allegations of phone bugging. When I advised AUSTEL and the administrator of the forthcoming arbitrations that the AFP investigation might impede upon the arbitration process we were being forced into, both Warwick Smith (administrator) and John MacMahon (AUSTEL’s general manager of consumer affairs) maintained we had to assist the AFP, as AUSTEL had done, and that both processes, i.e., the arbitration and the AFP investigation, would be conducted at the same time. As we have shown above (see SENATE Hansard, page 5163), Telstra was also being investigated at this time for having defrauded the Australian public of millions upon millions of dollars, yet we were told that our AFP investigations and arbitration claims could be run together. This appalling situation went ahead regardless of page 5169 of the SENATE Hansard showing Telstra’s lawyers had already determined how they could illegally conceal technical documents from the four COT cases under Legal Professional Privilege. And, as we show below, more of Telstra’s thuggery was still to come.
Transcripts dated 26 September 1994, taken during the AFP investigations (see Australian Federal Police Investigation File No/1) show the AFP was very concerned at some of the documents I received from Telstra under FOI. These documents showed Telstra knew my private information: whom I talked to, who visited my business and even the names of female members of a single club I started at Cape Bridgewater in order to expand my business. The AFP transcripts show concern that this surveillance was evident for well over 12 months. Telstra documented the dates I would be away from my business, weeks before the intended trips and even documented when I telephoned my ex-wife ‘where my son resided’ – nothing appeared sacred. When Telstra found out I provided these sensitive FOI documents to the AFP, I was contacted and threatened that if I continued to supply the AFP with FOI documents then Telstra would not supply me with any further documents I needed to support my arbitration claims.
Dr Hughes, in his position as arbitrator, declined to assist me when I advised him Telstra was refusing to supply me with any further FOI documents because I was assisting the AFP, and this was seriously affecting my arbitration submission. It was then that Senator Ron Bowell became involved, as the following Senate Hansard shows. Page 180 ERC&A, from the official Australian Senate Hansard (dated 29 November 1994), reports Senator Ron Boswell asking Telstra’s legal directorate:
“Why did Telecom advise the Commonwealth Ombudsman that Telecom withheld FOI documents from Alan Smith because Alan Smith provided Telecom FOI documents to the Australian Federal Police during their investigation?”
After receiving a hollow response from Telstra, which the senator, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and I all knew was utterly false, the senator states:
“Why would Telecom withhold vital documents from the AFP? Also, why would Telecom penalise COT members for providing documents to the AFP which substantiate that Telecom had conducted unauthorised interceptions of COT members’ communications and subsequently dealt in the intercepted information by providing that information to Telecom’s external legal advisers and others?” (See Senate Evidence File No 31)
Furthermore, when Telstra carried out those threats, Dr Hughes covered up the withholding of these discovery documents by writing to Laurie James, president of the then Institute of Arbitrators Australia, on 16 February 1996, and stating my not-received 24,000 FOI documents were received and read by either he or the arbitration resource unit. TIO official arbitration records dated, 30 March 1995, show those documents never reached the arbitration process (see Prologue Chapter Four).
This one deceptive act on its own stopped an investigation into my complaints by various senators and public officials. Eighteen months after he lied about these 24,000 late-received documents, a Senate estimates committee investigation was set up to investigate five COT cases’ complaints that they too had documents withheld from them also. Had Dr Gordon Hughes had come forward and admitted to the Senate committee that he had deceived the Institute of Arbitrator Australia concerning my withheld FOI documents, I would have been brought into that investigation. Even though it is now 20 years after that event, if Dr Hughes was to come forward now and own up to his grossly unethical, misleading and deceptive conduct surrounding these 24,000 FOI documents, that admission may be another to reopen this matter.
They still received no justice
On the 20 September 1995, more than 23-years ago, during a very emotional speech to the Senate, Senator Ron Boswell discussed the injustices that we four COT claimants ( i.e. Ann Garms, Maureen Gillan, Graham Schorer and me) had experienced during our government endorsed arbitrations stating
“Eleven years after their first complaints to Telstra, where are they now? They are acknowledged as the motivators of Telecom’s customer complaint reforms. … But, as individuals, they have been beaten both emotionally and financially through an 11-year battle with Telstra. …
“Then followed the Federal Police investigation into Telecom’s monitoring of COT case services. The Federal Police also found there was a prima facie case to institute proceedings against Telecom but the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions], in a terse advice, recommended against proceeding. …
“Once again, the only relief COT members received was to become the catalyst for Telecom to introduce a revised privacy and protection policy. Despite the strong evidence against Telecom, they still received no justice at all. …
“These COT members have been forced to go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman to force Telecom to comply with the law. Not only were they being denied all necessary documents to mount their case against Telecom, causing much delay, but they were denied access to documents that could have influenced them when negotiating the arbitration rules, and even in whether to enter arbitration at all. …
“This is an arbitration process not only far exceeding the four-month period, but one which has become so legalistic that it has forced members to borrow hundreds of thousands just to take part in it. It has become a process far beyond the one represented when they agreed to enter into it, and one which professionals involved in the arbitration agreed can never deliver as intended and never give them justice.”
“I regard it as a grave matter that a government instrumentality like Telstra can give assurances to Senate leaders that it will fast track a process and then turn it into an expensive legalistic process making a farce of the promise given to COT members and the unducement to go into arbitration. The process has failed these people an can never give them justice–a point confirmed by professionals deeply involved in the arbitration process itself and by the TIO’s annual report, where conclusion is described as ‘if that is ever achievable’.”
“Telecom has treated the Parliament with contempt. No government monopoly should be allowed to trample over the rights of individual Australians, such as has happened here.” (See Senate Hansard Evidence File No-1)
In simple words, the government infiltrated the Australian justice system to the detriment of its citizens. The following link > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_independence should be taken into consideration when reading our stories because Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary should be independent from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private or partisan interests. Judicial independence is important to the idea of separation of powers.
Stop These People At All Cost
On 24 June 1997, ex-Telstra employee turned whistleblower, Lindsay White, advised a Senate estimates committee that, while he was assessing the relevance of the technical information requested by the COT claimants, two Telstra officials gave him instructions.
Mr White: “In the first induction – and I was one of the early ones, and probably the earliest in the Freehill’s [Telstra’s Lawyers] area – there were five complainants. They were Garms, Gill and Smith [me], and Dawson and Schorer. My induction briefing was that we – we being Telecom – had to stop these people to stop the floodgates being opened.”
Senator O’Chee: “What, stop them reasonably or stop them at all costs –or what?”
Mr White: “The words used to me in the early days were that we had to stop these people at all costs.” (See Introduction File No/4-G)
On 25 June 1997, the day after the Senate committee were told we five COT cases had to be stopped at all cost from proving our claims, a number of senators discussed Telstra’s legal firm and its COT strategy, dated 20 September 1993. This strategy advises how Telstra can conceal technical information from the four COTs under Legal Professional Privilege, even though the documents were not privileged (see SENATE Hansard, page 5169). The COT strategy is available at Prologue Evidence File No/1-A.
The author of this COT strategy is the same lawyer with whom I was forced to register each of my phone complaints, in writing, before Telstra would address these problems. NONE of the fault information I provided to this lawyer, concerning ongoing telephone problems and Telstra’s response to those problems, were ever released to me during my arbitration.
On 26 September 1997, three months after the Senate exposed the COT strategy the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman John Pinnock formally addressed a Senate estimates committee (see Open-Letter File No/32): noting:
“In the process leading up to the development of the arbitration procedures – the claimants were told clearly that documents were to be made available to them under the FOI Act.
“Firstly, and perhaps most significantly, the arbitrator had no control over that process, because it was a process conducted entirely outside the ambit of the arbitration procedures.”
Why weren’t the arbitrations put on hold until the claimants received their promised documents? Why were the arbitrations not conducted under the agreed ambit of the arbitration procedures? How can an arbitration be a just process when the arbitrator has no control over how it is conducted? When did Dr. Hughes lose control over the arbitrations? Was it the first week, or two months or even nine months into the process? And, just as importantly, who authorised him to conduct the process entirely outside of the ambit of the arbitration procedures?
There is no amendment, attached to the arbitration agreement signed by the COT members, allowing the arbitrator to conduct those particular arbitrations entirely outside the ambit of the arbitration procedure – and neither was it stated that the arbitrator would have no control over the process once we signed those individual agreements. How can the arbitrator and TIO continue to hide under the confidentiality clause contained in our arbitration agreement, when that agreement did not mention the arbitrator would have no control because the arbitration would be conducted entirely outside of the agreed ambit of the procedures?
During the period, I operated the holiday camp I held a number of charity weeks for underprivileged children from Ballarat and South West Victoria, organised largely by Sister Maureen Burke, IBVM, Principal of Loreto College in Ballarat. Arrangements regarding food, transport, and any special needs the children might have, had to be handled over the phone, and of course, Sister Burke had enormous problems making phone contact, Calls were either ringing out or she was getting a deadline or a message that the number she was ringing was not connected to the Telstra network. Sister Burke knew otherwise. On two particular occasions in 1992, after trying in vain all through one week, she decided to drive the 3½ hours to make the final arrangements for those camps.
Some years later on 8 August 1997, I sent Sister Burke an early draft of my Cape Bridgewater – My Story, which prompted Sister Burke to write the following:
“Only I know from personal experience that your story is true, otherwise I would find it difficult to believe. I was amazed and impressed with the thorough, detailed work you have done in your efforts to find justice”
On 27 January 1999, more than three years after my arbitration was concluded I received a letter from Senator Kim Carr advising:
“I continue to maintain a strong interest in your case along with those of your fellow ‘Casualties of Telstra’. The appalling manner in which you have been treated by Telstra is in itself reason to pursue the issues, but also confirms my strongly held belief in the need for Telstra to remain firmly in public ownership and subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny and accountability”.
“Your manuscript demonstrates quite clearly how Telstra has been prepared to infringe upon the civil liberties of Australian the citizens in a manner that is most disturbing and unacceptable.” (See Arbitrator Evidence File No 66).
It is not the monetary loss associated with our ongoing-telephone problems that is hardest to live with, it is the knowledge that although the government was fully aware the Telstra Corporation “has been prepared to infringe upon the civil liberties of Australian citizens in a manner that is most disturbing and unacceptable”, no one within that corporation has ever been held accountable to what happened to our businesses due to this ongoing, unlawful conduct.
Had we COT cases been told Dr. Hughes would not have any control over our arbitrations, because they would be conducted entirely outside the ambit of agreed arbitration procedures, NONE of us would have signed the agreement.
Senator Kim Carr criticised the handling of the COT arbitrations on 11 March 1999 as the following Hansard link shows. Addressing the government’s lack of power, noting:
“What I do make a comment on is the question of civil liberties and the rights of citizens to approach this parliament and seek redress for their grievances when corporate power, particularly in a publicly owned corporation, has been abused. And there can be no question that that is what is at the heart of this issue.”
And addressing Telstra’s conduct, by saying:
“But we also know, in the way in which telephone lines were tapped, in the way in which there have been various abuses of this parliament by Telstra—and misleading and deceptive conduct to this parliament itself, similar to the way they have treated citizens—that there has of course been quite a deliberate campaign within Telstra management to undermine attempts to resolve this question in a reasonable way. We have now seen $24 million of moneys being used to crush these people. It has gone on long enough, and simply we cannot allow it to continue. The attempt made last year, in terms of the annual report, when Telstra erroneously suggested that these matters—the CoT cases—had been settled demonstrates that this process of deceptive conduct has continued for far too long”.
What appeared to have shocked Senator Kim Carr into making those statements is the information I provided to him that confirmed how, after my telephone had been taken away by Telstra for testing, Telstra people had tampered with it in some way (see Tampering With Evidence), and had changed the records related to that evidence into a totally different format. Altering evidence en-route to an official, Government-appointed arbitrator must really be one of the worst crimes a defendant (in this case, the Telstra Corporation) could have committed against an Australian citizen. So, when evidence of this tampering was provided to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (John Pinnock), the Chair of the TIO’s Counsel (The Hon Tony Staley), the Chair of the Telstra Board (David Hoare), and Telstra’s then-CEO (Ziggy Switkowski AO) nineteen years ago, why was that evidence not investigated immediately and why has it still never been investigated (see Open Letter File Nos/36, 37 and File No/38)?
Senator Schacht was possibly more vocal:
“I rise to speak to this statement tabled today from the working party of the Senate Environment Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee—a committee I served on in the last parliament—that dealt with the bulk of this issue of the CoT cases. In my time in this parliament, I have never seen a more sorry episode involving a public instrumentality and the way it treated citizens in Australia. I agree with all the strong points made by my colleagues
on both sides who have spoken before me on this debate. What was interesting about the Senate committee investigating this matter over the last couple of years was that it was absolutely tripartisan—whether you were Labor, Liberal or National Party, we all agreed that something was rotten inside Telstra in the way it handled the so-called CoT cases for so long.
The outcome here today is sad. There is no victory for citizens who have been harshly dealt with by Telstra.”
On 23 March 1999, the Australian Financial Review reported on the conclusion of the Senate estimates committee hearing into why Telstra withheld so many documents from the COT cases:
“A Senate working party delivered a damning report into the COT dispute. The report focussed on the difficulties encountered by COT members as they sought to obtain documents from Telstra. The report found Telstra had deliberately withheld important network documents and/or provided them too late and forced members to proceed with arbitration without the necessary information,” Senator Eggleston said. “They [Telstra] have defied the Senate working party. Their conduct is to act as a law unto themselves.”
The following Senate Hansard link > Parl Info – COMMITTEES: Environment, Communications, Information, includes a list on the left; scrolling down this list will reveal six different Senators, by name, e.g. > Eggleston, Sen Alan, > Bishop, Sen Mark, > Boswell, Sen Ronald, > Carr, Sen Kim > Schacht, Sen Chris > Alston, Sen Richard. Clicking on each of those names brings up the speeches made by each of those Senators on 11 March 1999. Every one of those speeches clearly shows something was radically wrong with the way in which our arbitrations were conducted.
Back in 2005, a rookie National Party senator, Barnaby Joyce, won his Queensland seat from the One Nation Party Senator Len Harris. After having worked tirelessly to ensure that the Queensland National Party won that Senate seat, he then brokered a deal for the remaining 14 COT cases with the John Howard government. The agreed deal was that, if the government wanted Senator Joyce’s most crucial vote in the Senate for the full privatisation legislation of the Telstra Corporation, then the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Senator Helen Coonan) would have to agree to resolve all the still-unresolved COT/Telstra arbitration issues for all 14 members of COT. Senator Coonan and Senator Joyce formally agreed that this would go ahead and our claims would be reassessed under an independent commercial assessor as his letter to me dated 15 September 2005 (see DCITA Evidence File 1 which states:
“As you are aware, I met with a delegation of CoT representatives in Brisbane in July 2005. At this meeting I made an undertaking to assist the group in seeking Independent Commercial Loss Assessments relating to claims against Telstra.
As a result of my thorough review of the relevant Telstra sale legislation, I proposed a number of amendments which were delivered to Minister Coonan. In addition to my requests, I sought from the Minister closure of any compensatory commitments given by the Minister or Telstra and outstanding legal issues.
In response, I am pleased to inform you that the Minister has agreed there needs to be finality of outstanding CoT cases and related disputes. The Minister has advised she will appoint an independent assessor to review the status of outstanding claims and provided a basis for these to be resolved.
I would like you to understand that I could only have achieved this positive outcome on your behalf if I voted for the Telstra
On the 3 November 2006, Senator Helen Coonan wrote to The Hon David Hawker, Speaker in the House of Representatives, stating:
“Thank you for your representation of 17 August 2006 on behalf of Mr Alan Smith regarding Mr Smith’s allegations that Telstra monitored his phone calls and emails during an arbitration process with Telstra. The interception of emails and monitoring of phone calls is an offence under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Mr Smith should consider his dispute through the dispute resolution bodies, including his State Office of Fair Trading, the Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Communications and Media Authority state, and the courts.”
Following the Hon Senator Helen Coonan’s advice, I contacted all of the government agencies nominated by the senator, including the TIO’s office, and all declined to investigate my claims.
It became evident there was no one in Australia prepared to tackle Telstra regarding its unethical conduct, prior and during the COT arbitrations.
I received a letter, dated 17 May 2007, from Senator Coonan, stating:
“I have now made both formal and informal representations to Telstra on behalf of the CoTs. However, Telstra’s position remains that this is a matter most appropriately dealt with through a Court process. Telstra is not prepared to undertake an alternate means of pursuing this matter. …
“I also appreciate the depth of feeling regarding the matter and suggest you consider whether court proceedings may be your ultimate option.” (See DCITA Evidence File 6)
Surely, as the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, it was Senator Coonan’s responsibility to initiate an official enquiry into why, both during and after the COT arbitrations, Telstra continued to illegally intercept numerous in-confidence documents that had left my office (or residence), AND the offices of various Senators, AND the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office? Tampering with evidence after it has been supplied by a claimant for assessment is criminal conduct and it is never the claimant’s responsibility to argue with the person or organisation responsible for this tampering because the police are there to protect the citizens, particularly during an arbitration process and particularly when this type of conduct is so obvious. absentjustice.com/Tampering with Evidence explains how Telstra DID tamper with my arbitration claim material after it had left my office, during my arbitration. The Australian Federal Police, the Arbitrator and the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman however were all reluctant to bring charges against Telstra at the time, i.e. during my 1994/1995 arbitration process (see Senate Evidence File No 31 and Senate Hansard Evidence File No-1), not even in relation to this serious criminal conduct. When Senator Coonan wrote to me on 17 May 2007, twelve years after the AFP had already declined to help me regarding these same privacy and interception issues, the Senator’s only suggestion was that it should be me who should take Telstra to court in relation to these privacy issues and not the government which, after all, had owned Telstra at the time these offences had been committed. I find this almost unbelievable to say the least. This entire situation is, however, just further evidence of the undemocratic way in which the COT Cases have been treated by their elected government ministers.
In January 1999, the arbitration claimants provided the Australian government with the Scandrett & Associates Pty Ltd report discusses this COT document fax-interception issue (see Open Letter File No/12 and File No/13), which confirmed confidential, arbitration-related documents were secretly and illegally screened before arriving at the intended destination.
In fact, one of the two technical consultants/signatories, attesting to the validity of their January 1999 report, wrote to me on 17 December 2014 and noted:
“I still stand by my statutory declaration that I was able to identify that the incoming faxes provided to me for review had at some stage been received by a secondary fax machine and then retransmitted, this was done by identifying the dual time stamps on the faxes provided.” (See Front Page Part One File No/14)
NONE of the COT cases were ever on a terrorist list in 1994 (or since, for that matter) and nor were any of us ever listed as suspects in relation to any crimes committed against any Australian citizens. Therefore we must ask: why were these innocent claimants’ in-confidence arbitration and Telstra-related documents hacked while Telstra was defending the various COT cases’ arbitrations?
In January 2018 my partner, Cathy, was with me for my first appointment with our local doctor after I had survived a heart attack and double by-pass surgery. Although the doctor was very sympathetic to my situation (and he knows my COT story) he couldn’t help but ask: “Why am I not surprised?”
As I write this it is now June 2018 and still, every time I go back to finalise various parts of our website at absentjustice.com, and I have to re-read all the complex details that make up the whole, true, terrible story, my anxiety levels instantly begin to rise alarmingly. The situation gets worse though because I also find I am just stuck; I seem to be unable to find the right words to finish off this dreadful story. It seems that, no matter what I do, I just can’t find a way to properly explain this disaster that we have all struggled with for so many years. One part of the problem is, of course, that none of the COT cases – all honest Australian citizens – should ever have been forced into a situation that would eventually leave us all dealing with so many still-unaddressed crimes; crimes that were committed against us while we were officially part of a government-endorsed, legal, arbitration process.
Sadly, Ann Garms passed away on 14 July 2018, but I know she would want her story included here.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for advice regarding our claims:- thank you.
The matters discussed on absentjustice.com are said in the public interest and therefore are made in a accordance with Victorian Defamation Act 2005 Defamation-division 1 Defamation and the general law see > www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web-Note.
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