Pay phones are an essential service for community safety and access for all.
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The Productivity Commission recommendation [ABC 5.00pm news 21 June 2017] that the government consider axing $44M to Telstra to operate pay phones, shows little care and no understanding of the lifeline pay phones often are for women fleeing domestic violence or any other violence, or emergency situation. In the suburbs and rural/regional Australia they are often the only way to contact police when you have been forced to flee partner violence or violence from a family member with mental health issues. When you flee such a situation you are not able to grab a mobile phone, keys or money, and in fact to do so could put you in further danger - you just have to run.
While new programs encourage people to no longer be passive by-standers it is going to take years/decades for neighbours or others in the community to respond and call police or be ready to get involved in any other way. Without pay phones there will be no other way to call the police.
Not everyone has a mobile phone, has credit, has it charged or is able to get access to it when they need to make an emergency call - or just contact family and friends – especially young people who can make contact using with 1800 reverse.
There are also so many areas where there is no mobile coverage: –
· copper land lines do not exist in many areas – some copper has been stolen and others are compromised by tree roots, age and deterioration,
· throughout regional and remote Australia there are many areas where there is no service coverage,
· in many areas NBN does not exist and internet coverage is only by satellite,
The report [ABC 5.00pm news 21 June 2017] also stated that there were 25 Million calls made from payphones in the past year. [This figure was corrected to 15Mill in a later report on 7.30 Report]. No breakdown was offered of where those calls occur or how many were 000 calls.
In regional and remote Australia there are no 24 hour services open in thousands of smaller towns and communities. When services close at 7pm or 9pm or later pay phones offer the only way to communicate an emergency. In Hawkesbury area with many areas of no service the pay phone is the only way to call 000 in an emergency. Hawkesbury would be considered an outer area of Sydney and would have major problems with this plan so the impacts on remote and regional Australia are unthinkable, irresponsible and extremely negligent in terms of community safety.
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