MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
MEMBER FOR FENNER
SENATOR ANNE URQUHART
CHIEF OPPOSITION WHIP IN THE SENATE
SENATOR FOR TASMANIA
MONDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECT: Government’s cuts to CapTel.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I’m Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister for Communications and I’m joined by my colleagues Andrew Leigh, and Senator Anne Urquhart here today, and with great thanks to Jenelle for inviting us to your home to demonstrate the benefits of having the CapTel handset. As Jenelle has pointed out, CapTel has changed her life. It was so disappointing for her when she found out that after 31 January, CapTel services will no longer be supported on the National Relay Service.
This is such a blow because Jenelle has come to rely on the service. It is functional, and it has improved her quality of life. We are at a point where the US provider, understanding the concerns that have been raised about the cessation of CapTel in Australia, has actually stepped in and said they will continue to support an interim service, even though the Australian government is cutting their support.
Now, there is an opportunity here for the government to do the right thing. Scott Morrison is very fond of saying he’s on our side. Well, he needs to be on the side of deaf and hearing impaired Australians in this case. There is an opportunity to make this right. CapTel services should be restored, with the government coming to an arrangement with people like Jenelle, whose quality of life has been so enhanced by this excellent technology.
Would you like to say something, Anne?
SENATOR ANNE URQUHART, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Yes, thank you. Thank you very much Jenelle for having us at your home. One of the issues when this was first raise with me was the concern around the fact that our hearing impaired community are not being treated equally. I’ve had a lot of correspondence from many members of the deaf and hearing impaired community who are really concerned about the effect that this will have on their livelihoods, their ability to live alone and their ability to communicate, and also their ability to feel equal in society.
I also call on the Morrison Government to stop this ridiculous dissection of people in our community, and to start to recognise and communicate with people in our community. This is one of the things they haven’t done at all, and that’s go out to the hearing impaired community and actually ask them what sort of concerns they have. They have just unilaterally stopped this service without any thought about what the effect that might have on people’s lives. We’re talking about a great percentage of people who are over 80 years old, but also young people who hold down jobs and rely on the CapTel service for those jobs. That is the most effective system they have to use, the most efficient system and it needs to continue.
ROWLAND: Jenelle, did you want to say something?
JENELLE, CAPTEL USER: I would like to say thank you everyone for coming here today. I feel like I’ve been heard, and things have been read properly. It’s great to try and get something sorted out. I always say to people “how would you like to have been born with hearing issues, and have to have operations and have to try and learn life through your eyes?” This CapTel phone is the best technology, and I’ve very grateful to Rob, the American President of [Ultratech] for keeping CapTel going. He was like an angel coming across. I remember I tried a phone call on 1 [February], and there was nothing happening. I was told it was gone, and that feltouch. On the 2 [February], I tried it and we had the American relay officers coming through and it was lovely.
But, today was just – I’m never going to forget it. We have to do good for not just people like me, but for older people in Australia. They deserve respect. They need to have the best technology. We shouldn’t be giving them inferior technology.
JOURNALIST: Jenelle, can I ask you, how has CapTel helped you?
JENELLE: CapTel has helped me because of my hearing. I can hear virtually one tone. Now, what happens is the operators will type up what the speaker says and I like it now because if I’m not following them and they pick up what they’re saying, it helps. If I put the handset down after the phone call, I can review the whole phone call if there’s a number I need to write down. I love it that when a speaker is coming through, and they’re coming through unclear, or they’re speaking too softly, the operator will put that in, and then we can just ask the speaker “are you speaking into the mouth piece? Can you please speak clearly?” I’ve got a habit of saying to people “please use clear speech, use your palate, and slow down”. I love CapTel, I’m dependent on it.
JOURNALIST: So, if you didn’t have CapTel, how would it affect your life? How would it make it harder for you?
JENELLE: I wouldn’t be about to ring anyone. I’d do everything by texting. I think I’d become down and out. My sister would ring me and I’d say “Oh, I need my CapTel”. Some people’s voices become crackly and it’s harder to pick up their words. So I’m very grateful.
ROWLAND: Thank you.
MONDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2020