Bad Bureaucrats is a work in progress, last edited in March 2019
Taking on the Establishment
Telstra management and Telstra employees actually committed numerous crimes against the COT claimants – ordinary Australian citizens who were only trying to run their businesses. It is clear there was only one reason for these multiple Telstra crimes: to stop the public from learning just how seriously faulty Telstra’s copper-wire network really was. And they achieved that aim – so far – for close to 24 years. Even more scandalous is that someone on Telstra’s management team was able to force a legally appointed arbitrator to use an agreement (i.e., the rules of the process) that Telstra, themselves, drafted; with limited time-frames so the COT claimants did not have enough time to properly prepare their claims. Although his technical advisers warned the arbitrator, in writing, that they had still not finalised their investigations into my losses and therefore their report was not complete, the arbitrator still went ahead and completed my arbitration before reporting the deficiencies in the agreement to the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman. Once the arbitrator recognised the deficiencies in the agreement, he should have abandoned my arbitration and started again with a truly independently designed agreement. He did NOT.
Perhaps even more unbelievable is that the COT cases received no recognition, from either the government or Telstra, for our stand for honesty and truth; instead, we have been treated in the worst possible way, labelled as vexatious litigants and our lives have been ruined, simply because we believed that what we were doing would eventually benefit all Australians.
At the time, those COT Cases who had NOT already lost their businesses (as a direct result of the poor network services provided by Telstra) didn’t know that, after being pressured into signing up to the arbitration process, once they had been actually locked in to that process, the ongoing telephone problems that sent those claimants into arbitration in the first place were then covered up by the arbitration process so that the arbitrator then only awarded the claimants for damage caused BEFORE they went into arbitration, while completely ignoring the problems that continued to haunt those businesses and, eventually, drive them to the wall. In other words, the arbitration process was nothing but a ruse that led to the COT Cases paying dearly while Telstra played catch-up, and the end result of all that was a very poor, Australia-wide, National Broadband Network (NBN) system as the following segments show below.
As we started to tell our 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, to enable the depth of the corruption and illegal activities committed during the arbitration to be fully understood. Hence a number of previously detailed situations in other parts of absentjustice.com are used here, again, and we make no apology for that.
It became obvious many problems experienced by the COT cases originated from negligence on the part of a number of government agencies. Therefore, we have used page 3 of the Australian Herald Sun newspaper dated 22 December 2008, written under the heading Bad bureaucrats as proof that government public servants need to be held accountable for their wrong doings.
“Hundreds of federal public servants were sacked, demoted or fined in the past year for serious misconduct. Investigations into more than 1000 bureaucrats uncovered bad behaviour such as theft, identity fraud, prying into file, leaking secrets. About 50 were found to have made improper use of inside information or their power and authority for the benefit of themselves, family and friends“
It is also most important to link how, on 2 February 1995, AUSTEL (the Government Communications Regulator) public servants decided to withhold their true findings from the then-Minister for Communications, Michael Lee MP, regarding the deficient arbitration Service Verification Tests (SVT) conducted at my Cape Bridgewater business on 29 September 1994. My own story on the website absentjustice.com includes examples of the way some bad bureaucrats clearly favoured Telstra during the COT arbitrations, to the detriment of the claimants. Altering the facts of their findings is appalling enough but, according to the Telecommunications Act 1991, AUSTEL was duty-bound, under Section 342 of the Act, to provide the Communications Minister (the Hon Michael Lee MP) with all of their findings regarding the deficiencies in their Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp SVT process.
We will never know what action the Hon Michael Lee MP might have taken in 1994, had the government bureaucrats advised the Minister that the SVT testing at my Cape Bridgewater business had not occurred according to mandatory government communications regulatory specifications. On 12 December 1994, as part of Telstra’s arbitration defence, it was stated under oath to the arbitrator in my case, that all three of the service lines tested at my holiday camp on 29 September 1994, had exceeded all of AUSTEL’s specifications. However, the person who made this statement could not get the SVT monitoring device to work in conjunction with its sister device installed at the Cape Bridgewater unmanned road-side exchange.
It is clear from absentjustice.com Main Evidence Files (2) and (3) that these tests had not been performed, however Telstra stated under oath that they had been. Further exhibits on absentjustice.com and Telstra correspondence to AUSTEL during November 1994, show that Telstra dictated to AUSTEL which information they could or could not provide to the Australian public concerning the SVT testing process of the six cases tested to that date, which included my business.
In simple terms, in 1994 Telstra called the shots on how the government, as the regulator during the COT arbitrations, could or could not proceed. Sadly, the Herald Sun statement concerning corrupt conduct of government bureaucrats suggests this conduct was still present in their ranks 14 years after the COT arbitrations.
Over the years, I have received numerous comments from different people, along the lines of “Those copper wire issues should have been addressed two decades ago”. Most of these comments came from people who had read my manuscript Ring for Justice, and/or some of the information now available at absentjustice.com/Front Page Part One File No/7- [p 1] and Front Page Part Two File No/7- [P 2], under the heading ‘Can We Fix The Can (customer access network)’, particularly in relation to how the corroded copper-wire network was continuing to destroy telephone dependent businesses around Australia, while senior Telstra executives refused to consider the issue at all. The COT Cases themselves have been saying for years that, if AUSTEL and Telstra had properly advised the relevant government communications ministers of the truth about the poor condition of the copper-wire network, some of the decisions made by those government ministers during the selling off of Telstra and the upgrade of its infrastructure, might have been completely different. The latest news (in 2018) regarding the NBN (see NBN boss blames Government’s reliance on copper for slow …) suggests that someone should have been listening to the complaints that the COT Cases lodged in relation to the ongoing problems that continued to haunt them, even after their arbitrations were over, and they should have been listened to as a priority.
Copper Wire was not compatible
The Hon David Hawker MP, who was also the Speaker in the House of Representatives in the John Howard government, was aware of just how bad the corroding copper-wire network (CAN) was in his electorate, at least between 1993 and 2006. In fact, he worked with me throughout this very difficult period, including convening a number of meetings locally and in Parliament House in Canberra between 1994 and 2006, in order to provide regular updates to the government regarding the CAN problems his electorate was experiencing. The Liberal National Party and the government communications regulator cannot deny they knew exactly how bad the CAN was between 1993 and 2011, particularly as I alerted the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), in 2008 and 2011 during my two Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) FOI hearings, and even provided the government solicitors and ACMA with numerous documents that I collated from 1993, when the COT cases first exposed these serious problems with the CAN. These documents provide clear proof of just how bad the CAN was and how many Australian citizens were still suffering from serious problems as a result of the corroded copper-wire network.
To investigate these CAN issues, download a full copy of my report, Telstra’s Falsified SVT Report unmasked identities, because this report explains how, during the COT cases’ arbitrations in 1994 to 1995, AUSTEL provided The Hon Michael Lee MP, then Minister for Communications, with advice regarding Telstra’s fudged testing of at least one COT case’s CAN, i.e., my business premises, even though AUSTEL knew the SVT process at my premises fudged. Remember the COT SVT was a condition AUSTEL applied to Telstra in 1993: if Telstra limited the Bell Canada International Inc testing by only testing from one exchange to another, and not testing the wiring to the COT cases’ CAN, then the SVT process had to be carried out at each of the COT cases’ business CANs, also.
Telstra had so much power over AUSTEL that it forced AUSTEL to drastically reduce the numbers they included in their original COT Case April 1994 Report, from some 120,000 COT-type customers who were having similar CAN problems, right around Australia (see Falsification Report File No/8) to 50-plus. Telstra was also somehow able to force AUSTEL to submit fabricated SVT reports to the minister via their third quarterly COT Cases Report of 2 February 1995.
Of course, since the arbitrator was clearly protecting the government during our arbitrations, he found that there were no more ongoing problems affecting the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp and his award of 11 May 1995 only reported on old, historic, anecdotal Telstra-related faults and ignored the still-ongoing faults that were still occurring.
The Briefcase Saga
It is important to return to 3 June 1993: the day two Telstra senior technical consultants inadvertently left a briefcase at my premises (see Arbitrator Part One, Chapter Two).
The important documents in that briefcase provided evidence discussing the manner in which Telstra settled with me in December 1992. Handwritten notes stating my phone problems had been continuing for months were part of this Aladdin’s cave. Most importantly, this evidence shows Telstra knew major faults still existed in its network at the time of the settlement (see Main Evidence File No 26, for example) but it did not disclose this to me during the settlement process. The documents exposed Telstra was fully aware its inadequate service and major communication problems affected the viability of my business endeavours and other businesses throughout Telstra’s network. Official Senate estimate committee Hansard records show Senator Richard Alston, the then Shadow Minister for Communications, discussing the Problem 1 document on 25 February 1994 during a hearing. Another previously unseen document, dated 24 July 1992 and provided to Senator Richard Alston in August 1993, includes my phone number and refers to my complaint that people ringing me get an RVA service disconnected message. A further document, dated 27 July 1992, discusses problems experienced by potential clients who tried to contact me from Station Pier in Melbourne. Some of these handwritten records go back to October 1991 and many of them were fault complaints that I did not recorded myself. Telstra, however, has never explained who authorised the withholding of the names of those who complained to Telstra from me. If I had known who had been unable to contact me, I could have contacted them with an alternate contact number for future reference.
On 27 August 1993, Telstra’s corporate secretary wrote to me about the same ‘briefcase’ documents, noting:
“Although there is nothing in these documents to cause Telecom any concern in respect of your case, the documents remain Telecom’s property and therefore are confidential to us. …
“I would also ask that you do not make this material available to anyone else.” (See Open Letter File No/2)
Telstra’s FOI document, dated 23 August 1993, and labelled folio R09830 with the subject listed as The Briefcase, is alarming, to say the least. This document, which was copied to Telstra’s corporate secretary, notes:
“Subsequently it was realised that the other papers could be significant and these were faxed to Craig Downing but appear not to have been supplied to Austel at this point.
“The loose papers on retrofit could be sensitive and copies of all papers have been sent to Ross Marshall.” (See Arbitrator File No 62)
The sensitive papers referred to above, of which Telstra’s corporate secretary claimed, “nothing in these documents to cause Telecom any concern in respect of your case”, actually provided clear evidence that Telstra’s management concealed from me, for many years, the actual state the network in Cape Bridgewater.
In 2002, when the new owners of my business started to renovate the office and residence, the builders assisting in this work, after pulling of the facia boards to gain access (see opposite), found exposed telephone wires full of water and corroding. This new wiring was installed by Telstra, 11 years previously. Page 5 of AUSTEL’s covert findings regarding my ongoing telephone faults confirms this: “May 1991 (approx) New wiring installed inside and outside office and main kitchen at Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp. Rented telephone equipment replaced.” (See download attachment Open Letter File No/4) The opposite photo is part of that new wiring.
Also in download Open Letter File No/4, on page 10, AUSTEL bureaucrats noted:
“Whilst Network Investigation and Support advised that all faults were rectified, the above faults and record of degraded service minutes indicate a significant network problem from August 1991 to March 1993.”
Telstra not only left the wiring under the office half exposed to the elements of the Cape Bridgewater coast (the camp faces the southern ocean), but AUSTEL found Telstra “advised that all faults were rectified” while Telstra’s own records indicate there were “significant network problem from August 1991 to March 1993”.
The pressure on all four of us COT cases was immense, with television and newspaper interviews as well as our continuing canvassing of the Senate. The stress was telling by now but I continued to hammer for change in rural telephone services. The Hon David Hawker MP, my local Federal Member of Parliament corresponded with me from 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.” (Arbitrator File No/76)
On 18 August 1993, The Hon David Hawker MP wrote to me again, 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.” (Arbitrator File No/77)
On 9 December 1993, the Hon David Hawker MP wrote to congratulate me for my “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 and copied to me from the Hon David Beddall MP, Minister for Communications, in the Labor government, who wrote:
“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 is of great concern to me and a full investigation of the facts is clearly warranted.” (Arbitrator File No/82)
AUSTEL’s formal COT cases/BCI test report was submitted to the government on 13 April 1994 (prior to the 21 April 1994 signing of the arbitration agreement and before the final COT report was provided to the communications minister). The COT case arbitration lock-up hearing, in AUSTEL’s Queen Street offices, Melbourne, in March 1994, took place seven months after Mr Davey wrote his August 1993 letter. During that hearing, Mr Davey pulled Graham Schorer, COT spokesperson, and me aside and told us Bell Canada International Inc (BCI) never investigated Telstra’s CAN in relation to the COT claims because Telstra promised AUSTEL that it would do the mandatory line testing, through the CAN, to each business in arbitration. Telstra had also promised its testing would be completed prior to arbitration.
At this meeting, AUSTEL’s chair Robin Davey also reminded Graham Schorer and me of commitments stated in a letter (dated 23 September 1992) from Telecom’s commercial and consumer managing director:
“The key problem is that discussion on possible settlement cannot proceed until the reported faults are positively identified and the performance of your members’ services is agreed to be normal. As I explained at our meeting, we cannot move to settlement discussions or arbitration while we are unable to identify faults which are affecting these services. … Until we have an understanding of these continuing and possibly unique faults, we have no basis for negotiation or settlement.” (Arbitrator File No/78, AUSTEL COT Case Report, point 5.7)
I cannot recall how many COTs attended this locked-up AUSTEL meeting, but I do remember there were at least seven of us who were quite vocal. I also recollect very clearly what I spoke about and which documents we were told we could not take out of the building. One thing was very obvious from all the security arrangements around the reading of the draft of AUSTEL’s COT Case Report: the government regulator did not want the public to know what the COT and AUSTEL investigations had uncovered in relation to the many systemic faults within Telstra’s copper wire and fibre network.
On 26 August 1993, Robin Davey wrote to the then-Minister for Communications, the Hon David Beddall MP, advising him many of the matters raised by the COT cases indicated the existence of major problems in Telstra’s network. Eventually I received a copy of this letter under FOI and found that, on page 4, under the heading “Cape Bridgewater,” AUSTEL notes, “Telecom has admitted existences of unidentified faults to AUSTEL.”
Bell Canada International Inc – COT testing process
If BCI had tested all of the CAN, including Telstra’s pits, back in 1993, it would have instantly revealed just how bad Telstra’s copper-wire network was.
The five COTs whose arbitrations followed mine were later included in individual Senate estimates committee investigations into the way Telstra withheld arbitration documents from the COTs and, during those Senate investigations, a number of the helpful senators also proved deliberate fax interceptions occurred, particularly whenever George Close (COT case technical consultant) sent faxes listing the type of documents the COTs needed to request from Telstra and those faxes went from his office to the COTs. As my evidence shows, in many cases, the withheld documents were directly related to the faulty telephone exchange equipment Telstra used, even though telecommunication companies in other countries had already completely discarded that equipment or at least complained about it to the manufacturers. George’s research uncovered Telstra’s appalling decision to continue to use faulty equipment, to the detriment of their customers: this was discovered as a result of evidence I collected and gave to George, even though both the TIO and TIO-appointed arbitration technical consultants previously ignored that evidence.
After I uncovered the arbitrator and/or his arbitration resource unit acted in concert with Telstra to prevent the ongoing billing issues from being addressed during my arbitration, I contacted Amanda Davis, (AUSTEL’s previous general manager of affairs). Ms Davis had warned her subordinates, in late 1992 or early 1993, it was apparent Telstra’s network was suffering with major network faults and this should be made known to the assessors and arbitrators appointed to the COT processes. This, of course, did not happen.
Bad Bureaucrats shows why the TIO and the arbitrator should have conducted the COT arbitrations according to the original agreement reached in 1993 (as well as AUSTEL’s COT Cases Report of April 1994), which clearly stipulated Telstra would carry out the AUSTEL-designed SVTs, via the Customer Access Network (CAN), to ALL the COT businesses who were to go through assessment and/or arbitration. The arbitration technical consultants should have been the umpire of the tests, not the defendants. Yet the agreement reached between the government regulator AUSTEL and Telstra allowed for Telstra to limit the Bell Canada International testing process so it would bypass the COT cases’ customer access network CAN. This allowed Telstra more time to purchase the proper SVT equipment that would be used in the forthcoming COT arbitrations before the arbitration was concluded. This decision was made because, by the time of the 1993 negotiations, AUSTEL and the COTs had discovered how bad the copper-wire feeding the CAN actually was. The results of the SVT of each COT business was then to be provided to the arbitrator so the arbitrator could determine whether the phone and faxing problems that brought the claimants to arbitration in the first place had been properly fixed. AUSTEL designed the SVTs because it would be pointless for the arbitrator to hand down a final award if the SVT results showed the problems still existed.
Arbitrator Part Two shows, beyond all doubt, Telstra executives chose to lie under oath, claiming that the SVT process met all of the regulatory requirements when, at my premises at least, the mandatory incoming SVT testing to my three service lines were in fact grossly deficient (see Arbitrator File No/110).
If the arbitrator had actually appointed an independent umpire to ensure the defendants (Telstra) conducted the SVT process properly, according to AUSTEL’s mandatory requirements, that umpire would have known no such incoming tests were conducted to my service lines through the CAN.
Between 29 September 1994, when this SVT process was supposed to be carried out, and 10 October 1994, my partner and I sent individual statutory declarations to the arbitrator, the TIO, AUSTEL and Telstra and I continued to write letters regarding this failed process until 15 February 1995 (see Bad Bureaucrats File No/15). After my letters to the TIO and arbitrator on 2 and 10 October 1994, I telephoned the TIO’s office to demand that, as administrators of my arbitration, they call on DMR Australia Pty Ltd, the organisation assigned to assess any technical matters that arose, to fulfil their role in relation to the SVTs: my request was denied.
A Telstra internal email, dated 13 December 1993, shows AUSTEL’s deputy chair Dr Bob Horton allowed Telstra to limit their mandatory parameter testing to only those customers that Telstra stated required testing, i.e.,
“This E-Mail is to alert you to a possible regulatory interaction with the current work on ‘COTS Cases’ and ongoing work with AUSTEL on network performance.
“As you know, a Ministerial Direction gave AUSTEL power to set end-to-end network performance standards. …
“The AUSTEL staff member leading the group originally wanted a very wide list of mandatory parameters but after discussion with Bob Horton and a presentation to the Standards Advisory Committee by [name redacted], AUSTEL have agreed to limit the scope of the initial work to the few parameters our customer surveys had shown as being of most concern.” (See Arbitrator File No/72)
Dr Horton was AUSTEL’s acting chair at the time. It is easy to see just how bad this situation was for me by simply linking this limiting of the mandatory testing with another Telstra internal email, dated 15 November 1993, which states that:
“Parameters for Cape Bridgewater RCM have been obtained, but I don’t believe them – I am attempting to check them. Some of the people supplying this information live in ‘old Telecom’!” (See Arbitrator File No/73)
The following is from the transcript of an oral interview of AUSTEL’s representatives, Bruce Matthews and John McMahon, conducted at the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office on 22 September 1994. On page 7 of this transcript, John Wynack asks, “What was the date the report was issued, the AUSTEL report?”
AUSTEL’s representative replies, “The final report was April – I can’t remember the date in April, but April 1994. The draft report was produced in March 1994 and Telecom received their copy of that at the time.” (See Destruction of Evidence / Perverting The Course of Justice/Falsification Reports File No/4)
While this statement by one of AUSTEL’s representatives makes it clear Telstra received a copy of AUSTEL’s draft findings, NONE of the information in this report, which enabled the government communications regulator (AUSTEL) to arrive at their adverse findings against the Telstra Corporation, was ever made available to the COT claimants during their arbitrations. The version we received in 2007 was certainly not the draft version we viewed in the lock-up meeting.
The following letters, dated 8 and 9 April 1994, to AUSTEL’s chair from Telstra’s group general manager, suggests AUSTEL was far from truly independent, but rather could be manipulated to alter their official findings in their COT reports, just as Telstra requests in many of the points in this first letter. For example, Telstra writes:
“The Report, when commenting on the number of customers with COT-type problems, refers to a research study undertaken by Telecom at Austel’s request. The Report extrapolates from those results and infers that the number of customers so affected could be as high as 120 000. …
And the next day:
“In relation to point 4, you have agreed to withdraw the reference in the Report to the potential existence of 120,000 COT-type customers and replace it with a reference to the potential existence of “some hundreds” of COT-type customers” (See Open Letter File No/11)
Point 2.71 in AUSTEL’s April 1994 formal report notes:
“the number of Telecom customers experiencing COT type service difficulties and faults is substantially higher than Telecom’s original estimate of 50”.
The fact that Telstra (the defendants) was able to pressure the government regulator to change its original findings in the formal 13 April 1994 AUSTEL report is deeply disturbing. The 120,000 other customers – ordinary Australian citizens who were experiencing COT-type problems – are not referred to in the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) report (see Senate Evidence File No 28), although this was used by them to determine the validity of the COT claims.
AUSTEL’S Second Quarterly Report
AUSTEL supplied the quarterly COT Cases Report (see Arbitrator File No/100) to communications minister, the Hon Michael Lee MP, on 13 April 1994. Points 5.31 and 5.32, in this AUSTEL report, highlight the continuing phone and fax problems encountered by the four original COT claimants’ businesses and AUSTEL directed Telstra to carry out the SVTs at claimants’ premises using AUSTEL specifications, to verify the phone services were now operating at proper working standard, but this did not eventuate. (See Open Letter File No/22)
The AUSTEL report confirms the SVT process was to give the arbitrator a guide as to whether all problems registered by the COT claimants had been located and rectified. The arbitrator was unable to hand down his final decision until Telstra demonstrated that it had carried out the specified SVTs and proved to AUSTEL’s satisfaction that both phone and fax services to various COTs’ businesses were up to the expected network standard.
Even though AUSTEL expressed serious concerns about the obvious deficiencies in the SVT run at my business, Telstra still used these test result to support its arbitration defence. On 16 November 1994, AUSTEL wrote to the Telstra arbitration liaison officer under the heading Service Verification Test Issues, outlining its concerns regarding the deficiencies in the testing process conducted at the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp (see Main Evidence File No/2). Telstra’s CCAS data for the day testing took place at my premises (29 September 1994) confirms not one of the incoming tests connected to any of my three business lines met the regulator’s mandatory requirements.
In the technical report Brian Hodge, BTech, MBA (B.C. Telecommunications) prepared on 27 July 2007, after viewing the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp SVT/CCAS data for these tests he states:
“It is my opinion that the reports submitted to Austel on this testing program was [sic] flawed, erroneous, fictitious, fraudulent & fabricated, as it is clear that no such testing has taken place as Telstra’s own call charge system DOES NOT record any such activities. Therefore the results are flawed or did not occur” (See Main Evidence File No 3)
In AUSTEL’s 16 November 1994 letter, it warned Telstra the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp SVT process was deficient. By the time I received this AUSTEL letter, in 2002, the statute of limitations allowing me to use this information in an appeal had expired. It is clear from Main Evidence File Nos/2 and 3 the SVT process at Cape Bridgewater Camp was not performed according to the regulator standards.
In response to AUSTEL’s letter noting Telstra’s SVT process was grossly deficient (see Main Evidence File No/2), the Telstra technician who performed the tests – and who was also part of the management team – replied. However, the defendant demanded the government not release any documents associated with the SVT process, without prior authorisation from them. In this 28 November 1994 letter to AUSTEL, Telstra states:
“As agreed at one of our recent meetings and as confirmed in your letter of 16th November 1994, attached please find the detailed Call Delivery Test information for the following customers. …
“This information is supplied to Austel on a strict Telecom-in-Confidence basis for use in their Service Verification Test Review only and not for any other purpose. The information is not to be disclosed to any third party without the prior written consent of Telecom.” (See Arbitrator File No/98)
By what legal authority could Telstra insist on confidentiality? The only legal authority behind such a request would be the Crimes Act 1914.
In October 2008 and May 2011, the Administrative Appeals Tribunals (AAT) heard my two Melbourne FOI matters. The government communications regulator (AUSTEL/ACMA) was the respondent on both occasions. I had still not received my promised discovery arbitration documents from 1994. Later changes to Australian law render this authority irrelevant, so how can Telstra require confidentiality from AUSTEL employees working for the government communications regulator? Arbitrator File No/110 is one of two SVT testing documents discussed in the 29 November 1994 letter from Telstra to AUSTEL. These two Call Charge Analyses System (CCAS) data printouts show there were not 20 mandatory SVT tests calls generated into each of my three service lines on 29 September 1994. That day, this particular Telstra engineer’s SVT monitoring equipment malfunctioned. The 60 test calls that were required to check faults on these three service lines, were not carried out: the lines were not held open for the 100-120 seconds required to fully test their functioning capabilities.
This same Telstra technician was named in the Senate Estimates Hansard of 24 June 1997 as advising Telstra employees that the five COT cases (including me) had to be “stopped at all costs” from proving the validity of our claims (see Open Letter File No/24). As part of my AAT submission, I provided both AAT and ACMA with a 156-page Statement of Facts and Contentions, plus a CD containing some 440 supporting exhibits. The ACMA chair and lawyers were given proof the author of the 28 November letter dictated what government regulators could or could not do during my government-endorsed arbitration, and that the writer swore, under oath (on 12 December 1994), the SVT tests exceeded AUSTEL’s specifications. The ACMA chair failed to act on this incriminating evidence. Arbitrator File No/110, Main Evidence File No 3 and the letter of 28 November 1994 (see Arbitrator File No/98) support my claims against certain public servants, employed by AUSTEL, who assisted Telstra to pervert the course of justice during my arbitration. Mr Friedman, senior AAT member, after hearing my claims, found them neither frivolous nor vexatious and supported my quest for justice.
Between 24 February 2008 and 14 January 2009, more than 15 letters addressed to various ACMA lawyers and the chair of ACMA show contradictions in Telstra’s SVT reports and its sworn witnesses’ statements. The documents provided during my arbitration process (which was known to be grossly deficient) were handed to both AAT and ACMA as part of the AAT submission. I also included proof that another set of tests – the Bell Canada International Inc (BCI) tests – submitted as evidence by Telstra during my arbitration – were also impracticable (see Telstra’s Falsified BCI Report masked identities and Main Evidence File No 3).
This matter was not investigated in conjunction with the deficient Cape Bridgewater SVT process. Two reports – one dated 10 November 1993, the other October 1994 – were both proved grossly inaccurate, yet the arbitrator relied solely on them and furthermore, accepted them as factual evidence. The senior executives of AUSTEL have been shown to be clearly negligent in their duties: this has had grave repercussions for all COT cases, particularly me. It has also had further repercussions for the general public and the integrity of the organisation they represent.
On 2 February 1995, one of AUSTEL’s bureaucrats attached COT Cases AUSTEL third quarterly report to his letter to the Hon Michael Lee, Minister for Communications and the Arts, which states:
“Service Verification Tests have been completed for seven customers. Reports have been completed and forwarded to six of the customers, and the seventh report is in preparation. All six of the telephone services subjected to the Services Verification Tests have met or exceeded the requirements established.” (See Open Letter File No/23)
It is important to consider this quarterly report in light of the letter AUSTEL wrote to Telstra’s arbitration liaison officer on 16 November 1994 (see Main Evidence File No/2) advising the SVTs conducted at the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp were deficient and asking Telstra what they intended to do regarding this deficiency in the testing procedure.
Corroded Copper Wire Network
In the world of political and media misinformation that is attached to the NBN, there is one important issue that hasn’t been fully addressed – Does Australia’s copper network meet the original mandatory government regulatory requirements? If this question is answered honestly, it would directly affect billions of dollars in Commonwealth spending. Why? Well, most of the current government’s NBN policy is based on using the existing copper network to get the internet to businesses and residences, a process dubbed Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN). The government has apparently chosen to go down this path because this how other countries upgraded from their copper networks and because the FTTN process is expected to provide the most productivity from the ailing networks before eventually switching to Fibre-to-the-Premises.
This situation however would have been quite different if the government regulator had ordered Telstra to purchase the correct Service Verification Testing (SVT) equipment needed to carry out the required COT arbitration testing (See Telstra’s Falsified SVT Report ‘unmasked identities’). Instead, Telstra left the choice of testing equipment to Bell Canada International Inc. and agreed to limit testing to calls to the main exchange, instead of the CAN – the copper wire between the exchange and the customer’s premises. Does this mean then that the Commonwealth government is actually responsible for what is now a major national telecommunication problem?
If Bell Canada had carried out the full end-to-end CAN testing, they would have certainly been able to warn Telstra and AUSTEL that an upgrade of the copper-wire network needed to begin immediately, in 1993. Just imagine where the telephone system would be in Australia today, if that had happened 23 years ago!
Although that didn’t happen, it could have because, early in 1994 (before the Casualties of Telstra arbitrations), I discovered Telstra had not told Bell Canada that the unmanned Bridgewater exchange, which all calls were routed through, could not handle the testing equipment BCI claimed to have used to generate the calls. If Bell Canada had known what that unmanned exchange could handle, then they may well have discovered it was the unmanned exchange’s corroding copper-wire network that was partly responsible for the Recorded Voice Message, “The number you are ringing is not connected,” that was ruining my business. That discovery might have led Bell Canada to realise Telstra was using them to cover-up how bad the rural network actually was, right around Australia.
We know Telstra deliberately misled the Senate estimates committee in September 1997 by providing false information in response to questions on notice and that the same thing happened again in October 1997. Since the Senate committee asked their questions on notice, they would have been compelled to advise the government Telstra, at the very least, had conjured up their Cape Bridgewater testing results. This major exposé would have led to more investigations and those investigations would surely have found that, in 1993, although the government ordered testing of the COT cases’ exchanges, this so-called testing was nothing but a total scam and that would have meant that the upgrading of Telstra’s rural network could have commenced sometime in 1997.
Australia is now footing an expense that would have cost much less (probably by billions) than what it now costs, 23-odd years later, all because of the misleading and deceptive advice that Telstra gave the Senate estimates committee hearing in October 1997.
Service Verification Test Part-One
Any reasonable-minded commercial assessor, after seeing photos similar to the one shown or written advice from Telstra’s technical field staff explaining how bad the copper wire network was, would have demanded Telstra supply the four COT cases with evidence: evidence the Commonwealth Ombudsman, on 20 January and 24 March 1994 (see Bad-Bureaucrats-File-No/20), also demanded Telstra address regarding the four COT cases being denied access to documents supporting their claims. Had the assessor been truly independent, he would not have moved forward and/or allowed the claimants to abandon their assessment process until the four claimants received the requested evidence. As our webpage absentjustice shows, the arbitrator did not seek those documents through the commercial assessment process in order for the four claimants to see whether they had enough documented evidence to proceed with arbitration. The Front Page of absentjustice.com shows both Senator Ron Boswell, on 20 September 1995, and Senator Alan Eggleston, on 23 March 1999, advised the Senate the COTs were forced into arbitration without the necessary documents to support their claims. With this admission by two senators, why do these COT cases’ claims remain unresolved?
Twenty Years Later
On 29 January 2014, CEPU representatives publicly showed similar photos to the one opposite demonstrating problems with the Telstra copper network, including some of the innovative solutions technicians had used.
During the lock-up meeting at AUSTEL’s Queens Road office, Melbourne, mentioned above, we discussed the aging network and alerted AUSTEL that in our opinion would continue to affect customers if Telstra did NOT carrier out proper CAN maintenance. Neither the chair nor the general manager of consumer affairs were shocked at the Freedom of Information documents we produced at this meeting showing Telstra had full knowledge it had major network problems in the customer access network similar to the one shown by the CEPU representatives. AUSTEL changed the subject and, in a roundabout way, the general manager of consumer affairs advised us the documents I had shown AUSTEL concerning the ongoing 008/1800/freecall problems were even worse than the estimated more than 120,000 COT-type complaints AUSTEL originally recorded. Unfortunately, during our arbitrations, as the conjured BCI and SVT tests showed our phone lines were now ‘fixed’, the arbitrator ignored our documentation.
It is also important to link how AUSTEL withheld its findings from the Hon Michael Lee MP, on 2 February 1995, regarding the deficient SVT conducted at my business with the way they also withheld information from the same minister regarding adverse findings concerning my business losses (see Main Evidence File No 15).
Everyone has, at some time, reached a recorded voice announcement (known within the industry as an RVA):
‘The number you have called is not connected or has been changed. Please check the number before calling again. You have not been charged for this call.’
This incorrect and misleading message was the RVA people most frequently reached when trying to ring my camp. While Telstra never acknowledged this, I discovered much later, among a multitude of FOI documents I received in 1994, a copy of a Telstra internal memo confirming, “this message tends to give the caller the impression that the business they are calling has ceased trading, and they should try another trader”.
Another Telstra document referred to the need for “a very basic review of all our RVA messages and how they are applied … I am sure when we start to scratch around we will find a host of network circumstances where inappropriate RVAs are going to line”.
It seems the ‘not connected’ RVA came on whenever the lines in or out of Cape Bridgewater were congested, which, given how few lines there were, was often.
For a newly established business like ours, this was a major disaster, but despite the memo’s acknowledgement that such serious faults existed, Telstra never admitted the existence of a fault in those first years. And, with my continued complaints, I was treated increasingly as a nuisance caller. This was rural Australia, and I was supposed to put up with a poor phone service – not that anyone in Telstra admitted that it was poor service. In most cases, ‘No fault found’ was the finding by technicians and linesmen.
On the 6 January 2003, the Hon David Hawker MP wrote to me noting:
“Thank you for your correspondence received throughout December, 2002. Copies will be forwarded to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, along with the videotape, “Phone Wiring Details at Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp.”
Did the government bureaucrats who received this video from Mr Hawker MP, pass it onto the Hon Senator Richard Alston, the then Minister of Communications and Information Technology? I know no one bothered to demand answers from Telstra as to why they installed this wiring is such a shallow trench with connecting cables loose in the conjunction box and with moisture seeping in and damaging the whole wiring system – the very wiring system Telstra rewired at the business in November/December 2002, six years after my arbitration failed to investigate my ongoing complaints of all three service lines locking up on a regular bases. No one gave a damn, from the TIO and arbitrator to the resource unit regarding how my business would survive once my arbitration was declared over. The poor quality CAN and copper wire connected to my premises stayed in place until 2002 as a direct result of Telstra’s lies under oath during the COT arbitrations: lies that were covered up by bad bureaucrats (at least two of whom were then appointed as ministers by the Liberal government).
On 28 January 2003, a letter from TIO officer Gillian McKenzie to Telstra states:
“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 ‘Mr 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 and D-Lewis File 1-I)
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 failed to investigate transparently? Why was this Telstra technician still holding a grudge against me in 2002/3 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?
Darren Lewis was so angry with this Telstra employee that he took a number of photos of the actual wiring that ran from Telstra’s pit to his residence and his office (the same office that was mine from 1988).
As part of his plans to renovate the house, Mr Lewis had begun to prepare for a heating system to be installed under the house but, in the process, as he sunk his shovel into a water-soaked area, he accidentally cut into a Telstra cable that was only buried half a shovel deep. Water from an overflow downpipe from the main accommodation block had been running off and collecting over the Telstra cabling that had obviously not been buried deep enough (see the following photos taken by Mr Lewis at the time).
According to the AUSTEL’s records, the Telstra cable was installed in 1991 and, as this photo below shows, it was this faulty installation that led to the cable itself becoming waterlogged. Yet, on 6 April 1995, during my arbitration, when I begged Telstra and the arbitration’s so-called independent technical consultants to run a series of tests to all three of my service lines and inspect the Telstra pit outside the office to ensure that the Customer Access Network (CAN) was up to the proper network standard, my request was refused outright.
Mr Lewis took 22 photos that day, showing just how poor Telstra’s workmanship was when the cable was installed. The open pipe was full of water and water had run down the pipe to the u-bend. After Telstra installed new cabling, Darren advised the TIO, the number of incoming calls increased by more than 100 per cent: this is confirmed by CCAS data.
So what was my arbitration about? Shouldn’t the TIO and the technical consultants he appointed have investigated why I was still registering ongoing telephone problems? It certainly appears the real reason for the way the arbitration was run was to ensure that the Telstra Corporation could continue to conceal all the problems created by their ailing copper wire network, and really, all the arbitrator had to do was grant us an award to compensate us and cover up the rest, exactly as it has been ever since, for the past 20-plus years.
On 1 September 2004, Darren Lewis’ wrote to our local MP, David Hawker, stating:
“I must also reiterate my thanks for the pressure you put on Telstra in late 2002 – I believed it was this that finally forced them to re-wire the kiosk at the camp and disconnect the faulty telephone alarm bell which local Telstra employees believed could have been causing some of the problems with incoming calls. Although the incoming calls increased dramatically one the re-wiring had been done, the trauma of the first year we were here has not gone away.”
Telstra waited until 10 months after I had sold the business before they transparently investigated the ongoing telephone and faxing problems I raised during my actual arbitration and for six years after it was declared over. If this isn’t discrimination of the worst possible kind, then what is? Did Telstra make a deal with the arbitrator to ensure that he would only investigate old, historic, anecdotal phone and faxing faults and totally ignore any ongoing problems in the rural network that, if they were proved to exist, would open the floodgates and allow other rural customers to sue Telstra?
When I showed the Hon David Hawker MP that the arbitrator only addressed old issues and none of the issues that continued to affect other Cape Bridgewater customers and me, he arranged a meeting in Parliament House, in Canberra, with the Senator Alston, the then-Minister for Communications. The senator’s staff agreed to investigate a 60-plus page report (and attachments) that I provided to them. This report was eventually returned to me – without the attachments – but with a covering letter from a Paul Fletcher, refusing to address the report at all. This bureaucrat is now the Hon Senator Paul Fletcher who, from 2014 to 2016, has been assisting the present Prime Minister of Australia with the problems associated with Telstra’s ailing copper wire network that has been the root cause of the slow rollout of the NBN.
If the TIO had allowed his appointed arbitration technical consultants to properly investigate the COT cases, as they should have, then that corroded copper wire network would have been uncovered and investigated in 1994, instead of in 2012, and the current Telstra shareholders would not be left picking up the tab. No wonder the Hon David Hawker was livid when he discovered that Darren Lewis was still having phone problems in November 2006, as our Main Evidence File No 3 shows.
I provided two photos Darren Lewis took to Senator Len Harris, showing him how deep the cabling was running: 50 meters along a trench less than half a shovel deep.
After seeing these photos, I employed a professional video production company to produce a video showing how the actual wall sockets looked when the casing was removed. I still have copies of that video but, in April 2016, when we tried to transfer it to a CD, we discovered that the quality was not good enough for use on the internet.
Back in December 2002, when the video was produced by Noel Waugh (Video Production of Portland), we sent a copy to the office of the then-Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston. Like most bureaucrats working in government departments, those who worked in Senator Alston’s office did not understand the relevance of the video in relation to my claims of ongoing problems and nor did they understand it showed how incompetent some Telstra employees were, particularly in rural Australia. It was, after all, Telstra’s incompetence, coupled with the fact that no one in Telstra really cared about the suffering of telephone customers, especially those with telephone-dependent businesses, that ruined the lives of so many small business operators.
To be continued: