MP Bob Katter calls to renationalise Telstra after telco cuts hundreds of jobs

Eleanor Campbell NCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

An Independent MP has escalated his calls for the federal government to buy out Telstra, claiming the telecommunications giant has failed to provide adequate phone service to thousands of people living in regional and rural areas.

Bob Katter has written to Communications Minister Michelle Rowland urging to overhaul universal service obligations to include mobile phone services, after his office was flooded with “hundreds” of complaints from constituents experiencing a lack of communications around regular service outages and poor phone reception.

He claimed the company’s recent decision to axe 2800 jobs by the end of the year was part of a bid to maximise profits “at the expense of customers, particularly in rural and regional areas”.

“Essential services must be provided for by government – water, sewerage, electricity, and telecommunications. There are others, but these are the basics,” Mr Katter said in a statement.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

Camera IconTelstra will axe up to nine per cent of its workforce. NewsWire / Diego Fedele Credit: News Corp Australia

“In our case in North Queensland, with frequent cyclones and flooding, it can be a matter of life and death – either you get to make the call for help, or you don’t.”

A Telstra spokesman said the telco has extended its mobile coverage by more than 140,000 sqkm since the 2021 financial year.

“We design and manage our mobile network to provide the best connectivity available and plan for peaks and troughs in demand as best we can,” the spokesman said.

“We constantly enhance and optimise our coverage and capacity to cater to shifting customer needs.

“This is why we’re investing in things like 5G, which provide greater speeds and capacity to customers.”

Meanwhile, Telstra CEO Vicki Brady confirmed the staffing cuts to the telco would not create further impact on customers.

Telstra CEO Vicki Brady
Camera IconTelstra CEO Vicki Brady says consumers are top of mind for the major telco. NewsWire / Luis Ascui Credit: News Corp Australia

“We’ve invested significantly in our customer service over recent years, that includes onshoring our call centres for consumer and small business customers, it includes buying back our stores to deliver consistently good experience,” Ms Brady said.

“None of those changes impact those commitments.

“As we work through the further changes still to come that I expect to share with our employees in mid-July, customer service will continue to be a key priority”.

Former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard first initiated the sale of Telstra in 1997, which became fully privatised in 2011.

The company now has more than one million shareholders and is one of the most widely held ASX-listed companies.

In his letter, which was co-addressed to Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Mr Katter asked for an investigation into listed shareholder HSBC, citing “national security” concerns and an “unwillingness” to oblige by universal service obligations.

A spokesperson from HSBC said the company runs a custody business, meaning its name can appear on share registers where the bank or its nominee is acting on behalf of institutional investors in its capacity as custodian.

Camera IconTelstra has said it would drop inflation-linked price increases on July 1. NewsWire/Damian Shaw Credit: News Corp Australia

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr Chalmers said he would be seeking advice from the competition regulator on its decision to sack almost 10 per cent of its workforce.

“We’re thinking of all of the families who are impacted by these big job cuts at a major Australian employer. We need to make sure that the services don’t suffer as a consequence of these changes,” he told reporters.

Telstra has said it will save about $350m per year as a result of the recent job cuts.

The telco has told investors it expected to make an $8.4-8.7bn pre-tax, pre-interest profit in the 2025 financial year.

Originally published as MP Bob Katter calls to renationalise Telstra after telco cuts hundreds of jobs

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails