absentjustice.com – brief summary part 1

Please note: absentjustice.com – brief summary part 1 is a work in progress: last edited in March 2019

STOP PRESS

Until the late 1990s, the Australian government fully owned Telecom, Australia’s telephone network and the communications carrier (today privatised and called Telstra). Telecom held the monopoly on communications and let the network deteriorate into disrepair. When four small business owners had severe communication problems, they were forced into arbitration with Telstra, in order to have their issues fixed. The arbitrations were a sham: the appointed arbitrator not only allowed Telstra to minimise the Casualties of Telstra (COT) members’ claims and losses, but the arbitrator also bowed down to Telstra and let the carrier run the arbitrations. Telstra committed serious crimes during the arbitrations yet, up to this day, the Australian government and the Australian Federal Police have been unable to hold Telstra, or the other entities involved in this deceit, accountable.
It seems that the attitude of Telstra’s current senior management to the scandalous behaviour carried out in the past by earlier senior managers has still not changed because, if it had, then, since Telstra’s current management have been provided with all the evidence of the company’s previous misleading and deceptive conduct, just as it is revealed on absentjustice.com/brief summary part 1 and elsewhere on the website (see the menu bar, above) surely those currently holding those senior management positions within Telstra would have come forward and admitted that, back in December 1994, their employees really did knowingly sign false arbitration witness statements, just as the following information so clearly shows. If the current board of management at Telstra would actually make this admission, surely that would open the gate for the Government who, after all, endorsed the COT arbitrations in the first place, to now begin an official investigation into all that we have revealed on this website.

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 these appalling events actually happened in a government-endorsed arbitration process.

The pages on our menu bar were set up as part of the process of dividing our story into separate strands to cover the technical issues separately from the human-interest issues. Currently, we are pulling various sections from these pages as part of that process. In the meantime, you might find parts of those stories repeated on other pages because this whole story is, as you will probably have already discovered, intensely complex and the huge number of documents we are using in our research adds to the complexity as we work towards producing a manuscript, hopefully for eventual publication.

Alan Smith – Author.

My name is Alan Smith My story page 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. I had always dreamed of running a 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 in February 1988, 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?

What sort of faults were we experiencing? Customers or potential customers, trying to ring us would receive a deadline or the phone would ring continuously without being answered as if no one was there, or callers were met by a recorded announcement saying the number was not connected at all. And, when calls did connect, the line dropped out, as might happen these days on a mobile phone, but these were landlines.

This is the story of a group of ordinary Australian small-business-people who have been forced into a long-lasting, legal fight with one of the largest companies in all of Australia.  It is the story of how the main Australian telecommunication company, Telstra (originally called Telecom), wasted years of their customers’ time, apparently unable to address the many phone problems that were affecting the capacity of the first four COT claimants to run their businesses.  In fact, Telstra constantly told the COT group that they (Telecom/Telstra) had checked but there had been ‘No faults found’, even though we now know that Government records dated from before 1994 (when the COT group was first formed around Australia) show (see AUSTEL’s Adverse Findings) that Telecom/Telstra had actually found numerous serious telecommunication faults that were directly wrecking those businesses.  The truth about these faults was, however, deliberately concealed from the four claimants for more than twelve years, even though the Government had agreed that, if the COTs were proved to be correct in their claims, then a Government-appointed arbitrator would award damages to compensate the claimants for the various problems still affecting the viability of their businesses. The process was to be administered by the newly appointed Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), Warwick Smith.

As we started to tell our Casualties of Telstra (COT) vs Telstra arbitration stories and placing each collusive and deceitful act into some sequence, we found many further acts of collusion and deceit committed by others outside of our arbitrations. As the website grows, we have discovered some issues relate to more than one event and, in fact, are often linked to multiple events and therefore one event may need repeating in different sections of the website, the submission of false witness statements by Telstra played a significant part in the arbitrator not understanding that the problems that brought the claimants to the arbitration were NOT fixed during the arbitration as Telstra alleged under oath (see Telstra’s Falsified SVT Report).

On 20 January 1994 AUSTEL’s Cliff Mathieson Specialist Advisor Networks and Michael Elswood, Manager of International Standards Section wrote to Telstra’s General Manger, Network Operations concerning the Service Verification Tests noting:

“Where test results do not meet the essential outcome, remedial action should be taken and the relevant tests repeated to confirm correct network operation.”

Point 5.25, 5.29 and 5.32 of the 13 April 1994 Government Communications Regulator COT Cases official public report (See AUSTEL Evidence File 1-Astates:

“…Mr Smith was the first of the original COT Cases to reach an initial ‘settlement with Telecom. It is understood that he: identified the type of faults which his business had experienced. Mr Smith has informed AUSTEL that his major concern and stipulated condition at the time of ‘settlement’ was that his service should operate, and continue to operate, at normal standards”.

“The fifth of the original COT Cases, Mr Schorer, had particular concerns about Telecom’s limited liability and the impact that the limitations was likely to have on any claim he might make for compensation arising from an inadequate telephone service.  

“The fact that faults continued to impact upon the businesses in the period following the settlement shows a weakness in the procedures employed. That is a standard of service should have been established and signed off  by each party. It is a necessary procedure of which all parties are now fully conscious and is dealt with elsewhere in this report. Its omission as far as the initial ‘settlement’ of the original COT Cases  were concerned meant that there was continued dissatisfaction with the service provided without any steps being taken to rectify it. This inevitably led to a dissatisfaction with the initial ‘settlement’ and to further demands for compensation. To avoid this sort of problem in the future, AUSTEL is, in consultation with Telecom, developing –

  • a standard of service against which telecom’s performance may be effectively measured;
  • a relevant service quality verification test. 

On 27 April 1994, Telstra’s Steve Black wrote to Robin Davey Chairman of AUSTEL (see AUSTEL Evidence File 1-B) noting:

“Attached for your information, an updated draft of the standard Verification Test for use in the Telecom’s Public Switched Telephone Network. Once agreement has been reached of these Verification Tests, Telecom will be in a position to commence the testing of the services associated with COT customers, and ensure they meet the agreed requirements for a satisfactory service.

However, in April 1994, once the new arbitration agreement had been signed by the four COT Cases the arbitrator and TIO and arbitrator appeared to care very little about the COT cases’ businesses, once Telstra (not the promised  TIO technical consultants) gave those businesses a clean bill of health.  In the case of at least six of the Service Verification Tests conducted at those businesses including the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp, NO supervised testing of those service lines were carried out. In my own case, regardless of my continually pleading with the TIO and arbitrator to investigate the ongoing billing issues, which the TIO-appointed consultants admitted (see Chapter One /Prologue page) were never investigated during my arbitration no mandatory SVT process was carried out. This particular ongoing lockup billing issue was a two-fold problem: each time a call was terminated, the telephone service would lockup with no dial-tone, causing not just wrongly billed calls but also disallowing the next call to connect. The only remedy for this was to physically disconnect the telephone from the wall socket for 20 seconds or more.

In front of three witness in January 1994, and a witness in May 1994, I advised the TIO, Warwick Smith, of the advice I had received from Telstra to ‘disconnect, then reconnect’ my service, in order to keep my business lines working. Warwick Smith appeared shocked at this technical advice and reaffirmed that the already operating Fast Track Arbitration procedure would fix these problems as part of that process.

The process was supposed to ensure that all of the COT Cases previous registered phone and faxing problems were fixed before the arbitrator brought down his findings. In my case: they were NEVER fixed while I owned the holiday camp. As can be seen from a copy of the holiday camp diary for 7 September 2001, my partner Cathy wrote, Phone Fault Report Telsta [sic] 12pm Job No. S109696122 Eileen – Faults centre. Tuesday 9-12 pm. Unplug each appliance & try line.” (See A Matter of Public Interest File No 57-A).

The domino effect 

The second TIO, John Pinnock, and Telstra would NOT conduct a series of tests at my business after the conclusion of my arbitration in May 1995. Had they allowed these tests I would have proved my arbitration process failed to meet the promises given by the first TIO Warwick Smith, and AUSTEL before I signed the arbitration agreement. I reluctantly sold the business for less than the recognized market value. Twelve months later, on 28 January 2003, Gillian McKenzie, a TIO officer, wrote to Telstra stating,

“Mr & Mrs Lewis claim in their correspondence attached:

“That they purchased the Cape Bridgewater Coastal Camp in December 2001, but since that time have experienced a number of issues in relation to their telephone service. Many of which remain unresolved.

“That a Telstra technician Tony Watson is currently assigned to his case, but appears unwilling to discuss the issues with Mr Lewis due to his contact with the previous camp owner, Mr Alan Smith. (See Home-Page File No/76).

Was there a more sinister motive involved in Telstra’s technician refusing to help Darren Lewis with the ongoing phone/fax problems that, nine years before, Telstra and the arbitrator assigned to my case had failed to investigate transparently? Why was this Telstra technician still holding a grudge against me in 2002/03 because of something my 1994/95 arbitration should have addressed – i.e. the ongoing phone and facsimile problems that this same Telstra technician was now refusing to help Mr Lewis with, nine years later.

Five days before Gillian McKenzie wrote this letter to Telstra Daren Lewis had already advised the TIO that:

“As well as speaking to David Hawker’s representative this morning, [local member of parliament] I also had a disturbing discussion with Tony Watson, the Telstra fault technician assigned to my case. Tony Watson  informed me (in a round-about way) that he is reluctant to supply me with any more information in relation to our phone faults because he knows I am in contact with Alan Smith, the previous owner of the business. Apparently, Telstra is afraid that, when talking to Alan, I might bring up the phone problems and therefore provide him with information he could use in an attempt to reopen his arbitration.

As the reader will conclude for themselves intimidation and threats by Telstra employees is something that most of the COT Cases, have had to endure because we dared expose how bad Telstra’s ailing copper-wire network was in the early 1990’s.

Most, if not all, of the COT cases suffer from sleep disorders and stress as a result of their battles with Telstra, and later with a government bent on concealing the truth on what the COT Cases investigations had uncovered. On 23 February 2007, after Darren Lewis become suicidal following a confrontation with Telstra over ongoing telephone problems at the camp, a Psychologist from Portland Psychiatric Services visited my Cape Bridgewater residence. She was struggling to understand what Darren was talking about and why he felt suicidal. I provided this Psychologist with documents supporting Darren’s valid claims about Telstra’s defective services, adding that I was sorry that Darren had ended up this way. Post-Traumatic Stress. Ms Howard drew up a Risk Management Plan for Darren to use (which has since provided to the government), including a warning that, if Darren felt suicidal again, he should not only share those thoughts with his wife but also with me as well as with Portland Health.

Towards the end of 2007, after a independent technical guru had visited Darren’s business (see Main Evidence File No 3 Brian Hodges Report Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp), Darren had advised Brian Hodge that he to was able to get a quick connection to dial out if he disconnected the wall socket to his phone and then reconnected it. Apparently this episode was driving Darren to distraction. Coupled with all of the other telephone and faxing problems Darren was clearly a mess.

Senator Ron Boswell

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 the singles club I had started at my venue. The AFP transcripts show concern that this surveillance was evident for longer than Telstra has since admitted. Telstra was able to document 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. Further proof which was  concealed from the AFP by Ian Row, Telstra’s Corporate Lawyer dated 29 October 1993, shows the faxes screened after they left my office was stored by Telstra for future viewing purposes.

When Telstra found out I had provided sensitive FOI documents to the AFP, that showed Telstra had documented the name of a bus company who I was tendering to bring business to Portland on a regular bases from as far back as September 1992 (see [pages 5 and 6] Australian Federal Police Investigation File No/1 transcripts),  I was contacted and threatened: 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.

These same aforementioned AFP transcripts dated 26 September 1994, also confirm the author of the previously discussed false witness statements, whom I have named Joker Three, was the Portland technician Telstra management directed to listen into my unauthorised telephone conversations (see Australian Federal Police Investigation File No/1).  Dr Gordon Hughes, in his position as arbitrator, declined to assist me with the interception issues and the threats I received from Telstra management (if I continued to assist the AFP investigations). Dr Hughes’ failure to assist me enticed Senator Ron Bowell to 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)

Thus, the threats became a reality. What is so appalling about the withholding of relevant documents is that no one in the TIO office or government has ever investigated the disastrous impact this had on my overall submission to the arbitrator. The arbitrator and the government (who at the time fully owned Telstra) should have initiated an investigation into why an Australian citizen, who assisted the AFP in their investigations into unlawful interception of telephone conversations, was so severely disadvantaged during a civil arbitration 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. This means that we must therefore ask: why were these innocent claimants’ in-confidence intercepted information provided ‘to Telecom’s external legal advisers and others’?

Why hasn’t the Australian Government, on my behalf, demanded that Telstra explain why their arbitration defence team was allowed to penalise me so severely, just because I assisted the AFP (as I was obliged to) with their official investigations into Telstra’s unauthorised, and therefore illegal, interception of my telephone conversations and arbitration-related faxes? Surely the Government has a responsibility to protect claimants during a litigation process when one side commits a criminal act against the other?  So far, however, no-one from the Government has ever even offered to assist me in relation to this matter.

One of the two technical consultants, who investigated the possibility that legal arbitration fax documents were being systematically intercepted during the COT arbitrations, emailed me on 17 December 2014 and stated:

“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.” (Front Page Part One File No/14)

It is clear from page 12 in the transcripts (see Australian Federal Police Investigation File No/1) that I named Telstra’s Paul Rumble as the person who threatened me concerning my assisting the AFP with its official investigations. What is not included in these transcripts is that, regardless of the arbitration agreement rules stipulating that the defence (Telstra) would not receive my claim before my arbitration submission was fully completed, Dr Hughes supplied Paul Rumble with 70 per cent of my claim material six months before Dr Hughes’ arbitration consultants advised him my claim was complete. Therefore, Telstra had six months in which to scrutinise my claim, while I had only the designated one month to view Telstra’s defence of that claim. If this is not discrimination and a breach of the designated rules of arbitration, then what is? The defence’s threats and bastardization of a claimant who carried out his civil duty as officially advised to do, when assisting the AFP in its investigations, have never been addressed by neither the Australian government nor the AFP who have been aware of this injustice since 1994.

It is also clear, from Front Page Part One File No/1, File No/2-A to 2-E, File No/3, File No/4 and Front Page Part One File No/5, that numerous documents, faxed from my office to the arbitrator’s office, did not reach their intended destination. Not only can we show that Dr Hughes disregarded the threats made against me by Telstra’s Paul Rumble, and that Mr Rumble was also provided claim documents months before he should have (which clearly advantaged Telstra’s defence), but Telstra was also screening arbitration-related faxes even before they reached the arbitrator, if they reached the arbitrator at all. As can be seen below, Telstra then went one further step into the gutter and allowed its employees to sign false witness statements to further disadvantage the COT cases’ claims.

Author’s note

One of the Telstra technicians, whom I refer to below as Joker Three, and who was one of those who knowingly and deliberately misled and deceived the arbitrator during my arbitration, is a respected member of the Portland community in a position to often make decisions affecting Portland residents as well as the local council. This, I believe, puts me in a difficult situation: i.e., do I have a moral obligation to tell my Federal Member of Parliament about this man’s appalling past behaviour? Clearly, lying under oath in a formal litigation process, or at any other time for that matter, is not something that would meet the expected criteria for a person whose professional advice is often sought by others.

I have sat on this evidence for more than twenty years now, without publicly naming this Joker, or identifying any of the six other Telstra employees who also lied in their arbitration witness statements, even though, so far, none of those Australian citizens has come forward to explain why they lied as they did, during my arbitration.  Having clear proof of these types of crimes have taken a serious toll on both my partner’s health and mine, and we deserve to have some peace of mind in the years that are left. For this reason, I am, again, informing my local Member of Parliament, The Hon Dan Tehan, this time on 14 January 2019, of these still unaddressed arbitration issues. I hope this will prompt him to remind the government that it was at the persistence of his predecessor, The Hon David Hawker MP, The Hon Richard Alston (the then Shadow Minister for Communications) and the government communications regulator that I ventured down the path that has to lead me to where I am today.

Between April 1988 and through to my arbitration of 1994 and 1995, I continued to experience faults with my phone service, particularly call drop-outs when, part-way through a conversation, the line would simply go dead, and short duration rings when the phone would ring once or twice and then stop, with no-one there if we picked up the receiver. In October of 1992, Joker Three arranged for two testing machines (called ‘Elmi’ machines) to be installed, one at the local Cape Bridgewater exchange and the other at my office.

In the afternoon of 13 October 1992, I reported four calls dropping out, at 1.20, 1.40, 2.00 and 3.00, and an occasion when I had answered the phone to find a dead line. Despite the Elmi machines, the Telstra technicians found, as they had in so many instances before, no faults that they could detect. What was going on?

In June 1993, I obtained a bundle of Telstra related documents from AUSTEL, one of those documents was a hand-written file note stating,

“We had the Elmi disconnected at the RCM [unmanned telephone exchange] and were installing it at Mr Smith’s house and the CCAS showed no evidence of above [not receiving ring] 1.20, 1.40, 2.00 and 3.00.” (See My Story Evidence File 1)

This was simply not the case at all; I knew Joker Three was not installing it at my house at this time; it was already installed. So I asked Telstra to supply their Elmi print-outs from September–October 1992. Some weeks later a number of documents arrived, including tapes which show that the call drop-outs and dead lines that I had experienced appeared on Telstra’s Elmi tapes (see My Story Evidence File 2) as answered calls at approximately 1.30 pm and 3 pm.

I could not fathom why a local technician would state that the Elmi equipment was disconnected at the exchange and were installing it at my house when these two print-outs show that it was actually installed and operating at both locations, albeit incorrectly.

If Joker Three says that the file note in My Story Evidence File 1 is not his handwriting and that he knows nothing in regards to the information provided on this document, then some other Joker at the Portland telephone exchange misinformed Telstra management concerning my legitimate complaints.

At point 5.8 in the arbitrators award under the heading Faults Caused by Claimant”  the arbitrator notes: “A simple example is said to involve the claimant [me] leaving the phone off the hook”. At point 21 in the False Witness Statement File No 13-A), prepared by Joker Three when discussing this Elmi equipment on 8 September 1993 (twelve months later) he: “concluded that Mr Smith’s telephone had been off the hook”. 

I doubt that had the arbitrator been aware of Joker Three’s past history of lying about this Elmi machine whether he would have taken this witness statement into consideration when making his award.

A Telstra minute, dated 2 July 1992, concerning the Portland AXE telephone exchange states:

“Our local technicians believe that Mr Smith is correct in raising complaints about incoming callers to his number receiving a Recorded Voice Announcement saying that the number is disconnected.

“They believe that it is a problem that is occurring in increasing numbers as more and more customers are connected to AXE.” (See False Witness Statement File No 3-A)

This one Telstra minute, dated 2 July 1992, (on its own) shows what a liar Joker Three is. 

Joker Two

The author of this AXE document, whom I have named Joker Two, like Joker Three also signed an arbitration witness statement, dated 12 December 1994, which told a completely different story to what he and Joker Three knew about the Portland AXE exchange. In his witness statement, he states, “I had perceived problems” but then says he had not observed any deficiencies in the service provided by Telstra. Yet it is clear from the AXE document that this is not the case. Folios C04007 and C04008, headed TELECOM SECRET states:

“Legal position – Mr Smith’s service problems were network related and spanned a period of 3-4 years. Hence Telecom’s position of legal liability was covered by a number of different acts and regulations. … In my opinion Alan Smith’s case was not a good one to test Section 8 for any previous immunities – given his evidence and claims. I do not believe it would be in Telecom’s interest to have this case go to court.

“Overall, Mr Smith’s telephone service had suffered from a poor grade of network performance over a period of several years; with some difficulty to detect exchange problems in the last 8 months.”

Why hasn’t the Australian government demanded answers from Telstra management as to why Joker Two and Joker Three, have not been made to account for their unlawful conduct?

It is clear from much of the information supplied by David Hawker, MP, to me in 1993 and 1994, that many people as far away as Penshurst, Apsley, Hamilton, Timboon, Victoria Valley and through to Portland were complaining to him about the phone problems in his electorate. The Hon Mr Hawker was passing on many of those complaints to me for the COT cases to take to Parliament House, Canberra, in our pursuit to have the Senate investigate why so many rural south-west citizens were experiencing the same problems as my business (see Introduction File No/11-E).

Testimonials  

A letter dated 6 April 1993, from Cathy Lindsey, Coordinator of the Haddon & District Community House Ballarat (Victoria) to the Editor of Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, read:

“I am writing in reference to your article in last Friday’s Herald-Sun (2nd April 1993) about phone difficulties experienced by businesses.

I wish to confirm that I have had problems trying to contact Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp over the past 2 years.

I also experienced problems while trying to organise our family camp for September this year. On numerous occasions I have rung from both this business number 053 424 675 and also my home number and received no response – a dead line.

I rang around the end of February (1993) and twice was subjected to a piercing noise similar to a fax. I reported this incident to Telstra who got the same noise when testing.”

(Because of a number of reports regarding this ‘piercing noise’, Ray Morris from Telstra’s Country Division arranged to have my service switched to another system.” (See My Story Evidence File 10-B)

On the 12 July 1993, a newspaper article from the Portland Observer Newspaper is headed ‘Network Complaints Taken Up by MPs’, and notes:

“Problems highlighted by Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp operator Alan Smith, with the Telecom network have been picked up on by not only other disgruntled customers but Federal politicians. Having suffered a faulty telephone service for some five years, Mr Smith’s complaints had for some time fallen on deaf ears, but it now seems people are standing up and listening. Federal Member for Wannon, David Hawker, described the number of reports of faulty and inadequate telephone across Australia as alarming. Mr Hawker said that documents recently presented to him showed that the problems people had been experiencing Australia wide had been occurring repeatedly in the Portland region.” (See Cape Bridgewater Chronology of Events File No -17)

The pressure on all four of us COT cases was immense, with TV and newspaper interviews as well as our continuing canvassing of the Senate. The stress was telling by now but I continued to hammer for a change in rural telephone services. The Hon David Hawker MP, my local Federal member of parliament, had been corresponding with me since 26 July 1993.

“A number of people seem to be experiencing some or all of the problems which you have outlined to me. …

“I trust that your meeting tomorrow with Senators Alston and Boswell is a profitable one.” (See Arbitrator File No/76)

On 18 August 1993 The Hon David Hawker MP again wrote to me, noting:

“Further to your conversations with my electorate staff last week and today I am enclosing a copy of the correspondence I have received from Mr Harvey Parker, Group Managing Director of Commercial and Consumer division of Telecom.

“I wrote to him outlining the problems of a number of Telecom customers in the Western Districts, including the extensive problems you have been experiencing.” (See Arbitrator File No/77 and Arbitrator File No/82)

Comments made from the Herald Sun newspaper dated 30 August 1993, confirm just how damaging some of these newspaper articles were to my already ailing business with statements like:

“The Royal Children’s Hospital has told a holiday camp operators in Portland that it cannot send chronically ill children there because of Telecom’s poor phone service. The hospital has banned trips after fears that the children’s lives could be at risk in a medical emergency if the telephone service to the Portland camp continued to malfunction”.

The centre’s stand follows letters from schools, community groups, companies and individuals who have complained about the phone service at Portland’s Cape Bridgewater Holiday camp.”

Youths from the Royal Children’s Centre for Adolescent Health, who were suffering from “chronic illnesses”, visited the camp earlier this year.   

Group leader Ms Louise Rolls said in a letter to the camp the faulty phones had endangered lives and the hospital would not return to the camp unless the phone service could be guaranteed”

Five years after this article was released, Helen Handbury (sister to Rupert Murdoch, who then owned and still owns the Herald Sun visited the holiday camp). Helen’s remarks about my story, after reading the first draft can be viewed by clicking on to the following Australian Federal Police Investigations-link and scrolling down to Chapter Four.

Regardless of the negative effective that some of these newspaper articles were having on the well-being of my business, particularly when they were combined with various  damaging comments from customers, such as: “… the faulty phones had endangered lives and the hospital would not return to the camp unless the phone service could be guaranteed”, I kept focused on what COT was pushing for: a Senate Inquiry into Telstra’s unethical treatment of our small group of legitimate claimants.

A further letter of support for the Senate Inquiry from a worker at D. Madden & Co of Warrnambool (Lawyers), dated 10/11/93, gave added heart to my decision to fight on. (My name had been passed to Madden & Co by The Hon David Hawker, with regard to a public meeting COT was organising.)

“I am writing in reference to the proposed Senate Committee Investigation into Telstra.

As you are aware, I am employed as a telephonist with a large legal firm in Warrnambool. In the course of my employment, and particularly during the months of July and August this year, numerous service faults have been brought to my attention. These problems include:

  1. Calls being disconnected during conversation.
  2. Recorded messages informing Melbourne clients and callers that the number has been disconnected when the correct number was dialled.
  3. An engaged signal received by callers despite a number of lines being available.
  4. Complaints from callers that the line has rung out when no ringing tone has been received at the number dialled.

Our firm duly contacted Telstra on a number of occasions in an effort to have these fault rectified. However, Telstra technicians were constantly unable to identify the numerous problems and subsequently remedy our complaints.”

Rural subscribers wrote to TV stations and newspapers supporting my allegations that, with regard to telephone services, rural small-business people, as well as the general public, suffered a very bumpy playing field compared to our city cousins. David M. Thomson & Associates, Insurance Loss Adjusters in Ballarat, wrote to the producer of Channel 7’s ‘Real Life’, a current affairs program:

“I have watched with interest the shorts leading up to tonight’s program as I have similar problems to the man at Cape Bridgewater.

Our office is located in Ballarat and due to Telstra structure the majority of our local calls are STD-fee based.

On many occasions we have been unable to get through to numbers we have dialled, often receiving the message ‘This number is not connected’ or similar messages which we know to be untrue.

Clients report that they often receive the engaged signal when calling us and a review of the office reveals that at least one of our lines was free at the relevant time.

We have just received our latest Telstra bill which in total is up about 25–30% on the last bill. This is odd because our work load in the billing period was down by about 25% and we have one staff member less than the previous billing period.”

The Hon David Hawker MP

On 9 December 1993, The Hon David Hawker wrote to thank me for:

“…your persistence to bring about improvements to Telecom’s country services. I regret that it was at such a high personal cost.” (See Arbitrator File No/82)

This was very affirming, as was another letter, dated 9 December 1993, from The Hon David Beddall, MP, Minister for Communications in the Labor Government, to Senator Michael Baume, senator for New South Wales, that says:

“Let me say that the Government is most concerned at allegations that Telecom has not been maintaining telecommunications service quality at appropriate levels. I accept that in a number of cases, including Mr Smith’s there has been great personal and financial distress  This [sic] is of great concern to me and a full investigation of the facts is clearly warranted.” (See Arbitrator File No/82)

A Portland Telstra technician, whom I have named Joker Seven, experienced major problems during his official fax-testing process of my service on 29 October 1993, nevertheless he advised the arbitrator that there was no problem with that service, despite what the following Telstra document shows:

Joker Seven

“During testing the Mitsubishi fax machine, some alarming patterns of behaviour were noted, these affecting both transmission and reception. Even on calls that were not tampered with the fax machine displayed signs of locking up and behaving in a manner not in accordance with the relevant CCITT Group 3 fax rules. … Even if the page was sent upside down the time and date and company name should have still appeared on the top of the page, it wasn’t. During a received call the machine failed to respond at the end of the page even though it had received the entire page (sample #3).” (See False Witness Statement No 7-A)

Didn’t this local Telstra technician understand that lying under oath in his witness statements assisted Telstra to conceal from the government and the arbitrator how bad the phone system really was in his hometown of Portland? Did he not understand that hindering my chances of getting a fair hearing in the arbitration also hurt his own family and friends, who were also residents of our region?

The cover-up continues

This internal Telstra document discusses the errors experienced at the Cape Bridgewater unmanned exchange, at least up to July 1991, and states:

“When the ‘A’ direction of system 2 was initially tested, approximately 11000 errors per hour were measured. In the ‘B’ direction, approximately 216 errors per hour were measured, 72 errors per hour is the specified number allowable.” (See Main Evidence File No 22)

False Witness Statement File No 13-B), dated July 1993, clearly shows Telstra continued to experience degraded errored seconds and minutes in the newly installed exchange at Cape Bridgewater. Worse, even though this new RCM exchange was installed in August 1991, Telstra did not realise it hadn’t connected the fault alarm system, from the main Portland manned exchange to this unmanned Cape Bridgewater exchange (18kms from Portland), until March 1993 (18 months later)! This March 1993 document reports the following:

“Initial error counter readings, Portland to Cape Bridgewater direction”:
  System 1 System 2 System 3
SES 0 0 0
DM 45993 3342 2
ES 65535 65535 87

“At this stage we had no idea over what period of time these errors had accumulated.

  • the alarm system on all three RCM systems had not been programmed. This would have prevented any local alarms being extended back to Portland.”
Joker Three

This False Witness Statement File No 13-A), signed by Joker Three, is possibly the worst example of Telstra employees swearing under oath to something they knew was a lie. At point 9 in this document the author states:

“I checked the CRC error counters regularly between the date the RCM systems were installed and February 1994 when I left Telecom. Checking the CRC counters in this way was a normal maintenance practice. I can recall checking the CRC counters prior to March 1993. When I checked the CRC counters pre March 1993 I did not observe any errors that could have impacted upon the telephone service provided to Cape Bridgewater customers. A typical reading for each RCM system was 5 to 10 errored seconds, no degraded minutes and no severely errored seconds. I regularly checked the CRC counters for possible faults particularly when Mr Smith reported complaints.”

At point 27 in this same False Witness Statement File No 13-A, Joker Three officially advises the arbitrator “The standard of service provided to Mr Smith was entirely consistent to be a very good level of service provided to other rural customers.”

This point 27 statement does NOT match False Witness Statement File No 13-B or the many statements made by the government communications regulator in its own AUSTEL’s Adverse Findings, of 3 March 1994. (See points 10, 17, 18, 23, 37, 39, 40, 42, 44,46,47, 53, 56, 61, 62, 70, 75, 76, 79, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, 93, 98, 100, 101, 104, 105, 109, 110, 111, 112, 118, 115, 129, 130, 136, 144, 151, 153, 158, 170, 173, 186, 187, 188, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211 and 212.

In particular, at point 212, AUSTEL notes: “In view of the continuing nature of the fault reports and the level of testing undertaken by Telecom doubts are raised on the capability of the testing regime to locate the causes of faults being reported.” This statement suggests the government communications regulator believed my phone problems would not be located.

Had Telstra’s management conveyed to the arbitrator that AUSTEL had doubtson the capability of the testing regime to locate the causes of faults being reported”, then the arbitrator’s award would have had to allow provisions for me to further claim against Telstra once the fault causes were located and fixed.

Cape Nelson – Portland Lighthouse

It is also clear from AUSTEL’s Adverse Findings, at point 209, which states, “Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp has a history of service difficulties dating back to 1988. Although most of the documentation dates from 1991 it is apparent that the camp has had ongoing service difficulties for the past six years which has impacted on its business operations causing losses and erosion of customer base,” that the government’s own findings prove that Joker Three knowingly lied under oath.

Portland/Cape Bridgewater logbook

At Point 25 in his False Witness Statement File No 13-B Joker Three notes

“During the period that I was maintaining the Portland exchange my file containing details relating to Mr Smith’s service complaints was a similar size to my file for the other 7000 odd subscribers connected directly to the Portland exchange”. 

Between February 1994 and April 1995, I tried, a number of times, to get my hands on the original version of the Portland/Cape Bridgewater log book, and so did the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office, on my behalf; we were both unsuccessful.  This logbook was particularly important because it would have included information recorded by ‘Joker Three’ in relation to all the faults I had registered with the exchange, as well as the faults registered by the other 7,000-odd subscribers connected directly to the Portland exchange’.  Neither the arbitrator (Dr Hughes) nor Telstra’s CEO (Frank Blount) would, however, agree to access this very important document (and/or documents). I also requested this information under the official, legal discovery process but didn’t even receive a response from the arbitrator. Even Telstra’s own Senior Protective Services Officer claimed in his witness statement that he could not locate this log book (see Main Evidence File No 30).

Joker Five

Chapter Three in absentjustice.com/brief summary part 2 describes how a Telstra whistleblower told a Senate Estimates Committee that ‘Joker Five’ told him that the first five COT Cases (naming me as one of those five) ‘had to be stopped at all cost’ from proving their claims. With an attitude like this, perhaps it was ‘Joker Five’ who advised ‘Jokers Two, Three and Seven’ that lying in their witness statements was an acceptable practice?

What this comes down to is that it would just need one ex-Portland Telstra technician to come forward and admit he knowingly lied in his arbitration witness statement, and that might just be enough to finally have our arbitration cases reopened.

Portland Tourist Information Centre

It is important we conclude these falsehoods by combining AUSTEL’s letters to Telstra dated 6 January, 27 January and 4 October 1994 (see False Witness Statement Files 15-B to 15-F) because these show AUSTEL knew there were many problems affecting a number of other Portland and Cape Bridgewater Telstra customers.

AUSTEL’s 27 January 1994 letter to Telstra’s Steve Black (see File 15-C) states:

“You are probably aware of Mr Smith’s ongoing complaints as to the efficacy of his 008 service – he maintains that many callers receive a RVA advising that the number is no longer connected.”

“Further to that point is the experience of the Portland Tourist Information Centre which is now complaining of precisely the same problem. It is understood that these issues gained prominence after considerable incidences of problems from various points throughout Australia following a nation-wide promotion of south western Victoria. A copy of a fax from the Centre is attached. You may wish to consider this issue further.

Joker Three and Joker Seven have been prominent identities in Portland over the past twenty-years, advising interested parties on a number of issues. This suggests they have never really understood the damage their misleading and deceptive statements caused, not just to me but to others in the Portland region. Had the arbitrator full knowledge that my complaints of ongoing problems were real, and not a figment of my imagination, this may well have prompted him to have these complaints investigated by an impartial entity instead of Telstra, who were, after all, the defendants in my government-endorsed arbitration. NO testing of my service was undertaken by anyone other than Telstra during my arbitration.

Australian Senate

No control over that process

The government promised the claimants that if they accepted this endorsed process then it would be conducted under the ambit of the Arbitration Act. However, unbeknown to the government and the claimants, the arbitrator and administrator of the process secretly met with the defendant, Telstra, and, between them, it was decided the arbitration agreement – the rules concerning how the process would run – would be altered.

On 26 September 1997, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman John Pinnock formally addressed a Senate estimates committee (see page 99 > COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA – Parliament of Australia): 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.”

This contradicts information in a letter dated 24 January 1994 (see Open Letter File No/48-A). This letter, written to Dr Hughes before he was formally appointed as arbitrator, confirms Mr Frank Shelton (the TIO-appointed special counsel to the arbitration process) agreed with Dr Hughes that the first four COT claimant’s arbitrations would all be conducted according to the Victorian Commercial Arbitration Act 1984. This was despite the four COT cases still wanting to have their matters assessed under the previously signed and agreed to commercial assessment process. When this letter was provided to the four COT claimants, they were also given verbal assurances by the first TIO, Warwick Smith, and Dr Hughes that if they abandoned their commercial assessment process, the arbitrations would be conducted under the ambit of the arbitration procedures.

Why was John Pinnock’s admittance that our arbitrations were not conducted under the agreed-to process not acted upon?

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 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?

I believe that COT Case Ann Garm’s story The Ultimate Betrayal, and the draft statements in justicecommand.com by COT spokesperson Graham Schorer is a further testament that our claims should be transparently investigated see Chapter OneAbsentjustice Brief Summary Part 2

Sadly, Ann Garms OAM passed away on 14 July 2018, but I know she would want her story told here.

Why was this evidence concealed from the government and arbitrator?

Further Damning evidence on the following linkJusticecommand.comsee 2013062713394806200). that, although the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) warned Telstra that Graham Schorer (later – COT spokesperson), of Golden Messenger Courier services, had a valid claim against them for misleading and deceptive conduct under section 52 of the Australian Trade Practices Act and advised Telstra should settle with Mr Schorer, Telstra ignored the AGS. For the next NINE years, Telstra went on a deliberate campaign to destroy Mr Schorer’s credibility and his finances even though they knew the AGS was right.

When Graham Schorer (COT spokesperson) signed his arbitration Deed of Release in April 1999, he agreed not to divulge the goings-on surrounding his claims against Telstra. Before we tell the rest of Graham’s terrible story, we want to be 100 per cent sure that we won’t be sued because of this Deed of Release.

We are now seeking legal advice from a number of areas including the government: Was Telstra and the government communications regulator AUSTEL (now ACMA)  allowed to conceal from the arbitrator, before Graham signed the arbitration agreement, that the Australian Government Solicitors had already proved his case and therefore there was no need for him to have to prove again what was already officially proven?

On age 23 of the government communications regulatory draft findings on Golden Messenger (see 20130627133948062: it notes:

“Telecom Minute of 30/3/88 states that advice from Legal and Policy Headquarters indicate that Golden Messenger appeared to have a case against us…and…the Australian Government Solicitor had advised Telecom that Golden Messenger is likely to be successful in establishing that Telecom engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct contrary to the Trade Practice Act and that consequence of lost calls or calls not getting through was likely to lead to an immediate loss of business in relation to that call and potential loss of future business from the customer”.

Exhibits 20111025143553046 and 20130627133948062. were not released to Graham until October 2008, fourteen years too late to be used in his arbitration or during the Senate Estimates Investigation into why relevant documents were being withheld from Graham during his arbitration. In other words, if AUSTEL had provided their adverse findings against Telstra to Graham and the Senate Estimates Committee during that 1997/1999 Committee investigation, it would be fair to say that the Committee would have immediately ensured that Telstra didn’t pressure Graham into accepting compensation of only 33% of his arbitration claim – and that 33% did NOT include the thousands upon thousands of dollars Graham had wasted on legal fees to prove something that the government regulator had already proved.

Continued on absentjustice.com brief summary part 2

absentjustice.com – brief summary part 2

The matters discussed on absentjustice.com are said in the public interest and therefore are made in accordance with the Victorian Defamation Act 2005 Defamation-division 1 Defamation and the general law see > www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web-Note.

Contact: naturaljusticeinternational@gmail.com for advice regarding our claims:- thank you.

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