By OSCAR PERRI
Telstra is continuing its efforts to build a mobile phone tower to service areas south of The Gap with an NTCAT challenge to a decision blocking the construction.
Plans to build a 30 metre high monopole on private land in Ilpara were denied by the Development Consent Authority (DCA) in December last year.
The DCA judged that the benefits to the community that the tower would provide did not outweigh the damage to the “character and amenity” of the area that it would cause.
There were 33 public submissions noted in the meeting, including 14 objections and 17 in support, with objectors against the impact of the tower on local views, and supporters eager for an increase in wireless coverage and access to better services.
In January Telstra began a challenge to have the decision overturned at NTCAT, with the next hearing scheduled to go ahead after June 25.
Meanwhile Telstra has been given the second highest penalty ever imposed under Australian Consumer Law on Thursday.
The ACCC instituted the Federal Court proceedings against Telstra for admitted unconscionable conduct in November last year.
The Federal Court handed down a $50m fine after findings that five Telstra stores, including one in Alice Springs, engaged in unconscionable conduct towards Aboriginal customers.
Telstra admitted that from 2016-18 sales staff signed up 108 consumers, around 30% in Alice, to multiple post-paid mobile contracts which they did not understand and could not afford.
The court found that these staff manipulated Telstra’s credit assessment process, misrepresented products as free, and were likely to have received incentive payments for these sales.
The customers all incurred debts in the thousands, one up to $19,524, some of which were sold to third party debt collectors.
It is unclear which of these practices occurred in Alice Springs.
Telstra would not disclose details about specific individuals or changes at an individual store level, but have announced that all previously independently licensed stores, as was the case in Alice Springs, have now transitioned to full Telstra control.
“I want to apologise to all of the Indigenous customers affected by this. I am deeply and personally disappointed that we have let you down. We should have listened more carefully. We should have been more attuned to what was happening. We should have picked this up earlier.”
Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said this in a letter announcing a new First Nations hotline and cultural awareness training and a new Indigenous policy statement.
The findings say responsible managers within the relevant arms of Telstra became “increasingly aware” of the practices, but this did not extend to the board and senior executives.