MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
US PROVIDER ULTRATECH STEPS IN TO PROVIDE INTERIM CAPTEL SERVICE
Labor welcomes the decision by Ultratech to provide an interim CapTel service to deaf Australians, after the Morrison Government axed the Service on 1 February.
As noted by the founder of CapTel, Mr Rob Engelke, in a written statement:
“I believe that access to the telephone is a right, not a privilege. We developed CapTel to be the most functionally equivalent way for people with hearing loss to access the telephone and believe it should be available to those who need it.”
“I have been genuinely moved by the outpouring of heartfelt messages from Australians who are clearly distressed and frightened about living without CapTel. CapTel has been available for over ten years in Australia and I believe it is not acceptable to leave CapTel users without access to family, friends, employment, emergency services and the myriad ways that all of us use the telephone.”
“Therefore, as a temporary measure, I have instructed our American captioning centers to support existing Australian CapTel handsets so that they will continue to operate with captions while we investigate long-term options based in Australia.”
This is a welcome but temporary relief for CapTel users, which as Labor has previously noted, have an average age of more than 80 years old.
CapTel offers these Australians the ability to communicate more easily, have greater quality of life and an improved sense of safety.
This development also further embarrasses Minister Fletcher, who issued a panicked press release on Friday afternoon, this time trying to blame Ultratech for the axing of CapTel.
This Minister has now tried to blame the 2013 Labor Government, the public service, the previous NRS provider, and now the US technology licensee, for the Government’s own decision to cut funding and services.
The inability of the Morrison Government to accept responsibility for its own decision is appalling and Australians are fed up.
Labor therefore calls on the Minister to stop the misinformation and buck passing, and move swiftly to reach an agreement to secure ongoing access to CapTel.
The distress the Morrison Government has created for CapTel users and their families cannot continue indefinitely.
Senior deaf Australians should not have to rely on the charity of American companies to access an essential service. The community urgently needs certainty that the service will continue.
SUNDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2020