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'For me this is a real social justice issue because there is a lot of people who don't have the internet.' ABC Hobart Breakfast Radio Interview, Wednesday 19 July 2017





SUBJECTS: Citizenship; ‘Keep Me Posted’ community forum.

JOHN X: There's a community forum on paper billing fees. Senator Lisa Singh is inviting you to a forum at 11.30am at the Glenorchy LINC to discuss the impact of the increasing push from these big businesses to conduct their affairs digitally. Good Morning Senator Singh. 

SENATOR THE HON LISA SINGH, LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good Morning John, and could I just say I'll be joining the Knitting Nannas at the vigil. 

X: Fantastic.

SINGH: Yes. They do a terrific job in raising the profile of the plight of refugees and those on Manus and Nauru and I take my hat off to them. I'll be there rain or snow to support them – particularly the children who are still locked up.

X: I know. Four years is just such a long time. 

SINGH: Shocking. Absolutely disgusting. Anyway, we will continue to fight on to try and make sure that they're released.

X: Senator, I've got to check this – have you checked your citizenship?

SINGH: I went through this, John.

X: Did it freak you out? Did you go, 'Oh hang on a minute, I better check. Just in case'

SINGH: In the Labor Party we do these checks. I think it is something the Greens could learn from us, John. I was questioned about my citizenship when I nominated for pre-selection back in 2010. The question I had was why would I have a problem when I was born in Hobart? The problem was that when my Dad came here he was a British subject. He came from Fiji, Fiji was still part of the British Empire then, and through birthright I got his British citizenship. So I had to rescind my British citizenship. I had to pay 300 pounds to the British High Commission in Canberra.

X: You had to pay to get out?

SINGH: You have to pay to get out! And I got a lovely blue piece of paper that says so. I'm fine, but it is certainly a lesson learnt for the Greens in a harsh and big way. I do have some sympathy though for Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters. I've worked with both of them closely on a range of issues and to see this happen in this way must be a terrible shock to them and certainly a shock for everybody. But it is also a wake-up to the Greens for due diligence there on what needs to be done.

X: Tell us about this community forum on paper billing fees in Glenorchy today at 11.30

SINGH: It's called 'Keep Me Posted', rightly named.

X: Beautiful name.

SINGH: It's about the fact that we're getting slugged with fees by choosing to have our bills come by the post, instead of getting them online through the internet. For me this is a real social justice issue because there is a lot of people who don't have the internet, who can't afford it-

X: There's people who have the internet and it doesn't work.

SINGH: Or they're just not tech-savvy, and they choose to continue to get their bills in the mail. To be honest, I get my bills in the mail even though I have the internet because that's the way I like to file them away.

X: So do I. I like to be able to access a hardcopy, have it front of my hands.

SINGH: I had a look at one of my bills the other day. I'm getting charged $2.20 a month just for having the bill come in the mail! What we've heard from Kellie Northwood – she's the Executive Director of 'Keep Me Posted' and she's flying down to run this forum today – is that people are being charged up to $6 for getting their bill in the mail!

X: Someone's making money out of this.

SINGH: They are. But look it's going to come down to a legislative change that's going to be needed. So that's where I step in I suppose, and get involved to see how we can actually change this in the Parliament. I'm just thinking of the older people, people with lower literacy skills – might be disadvantaged in other ways – or just who choose to have their bills continue to come by post. They shouldn't be slugged like this. So we will hear from Kellie today. The forum is at the Glenorchy LINC at 11:30am this morning. Anyone's invited to come along and hear how we can push to end this. I'm sure people know what I'm talking about, or maybe not, maybe they want to go and check some of their bills.

X: Well that's the other thing. If you don't look for it, it just sort of sits there at the bottom. If you don't look for it you just go, ‘Oh yeah, there's my phone bill,’ you know? Do we have any rights as people to say that, ‘I won't pay that fee’? Is there a legal leg for us to stand on?

SINGH: Well yes and no. We can raise our voices, which is what we are doing here in Hobart today. It's going on around the country, but eventually that voice-raising needs to come through a change of our consumer law in the Parliament. So that's where I think it really needs to stop, to be able to say to those companies, ‘You cannot do this anymore, we've legislated to stop you doing it.’ So that's where we need to push things.

Obviously we have a competition watchdog though, that needs to know about this, that looks at scams and things like that. That's the other thing, a lot of emails you get these days are scam emails. So you might think it's a bill and it's not a real bill. I think it's pretty unreasonable to say that everyone has to get their bills through email attachments or else pay more.

X: It should definitely be a choice, shouldn't it?

SINGH: It should definitely be. So we'll have a listen to some of the stories that Kellie’s heard of. Some harrowing stories actually of people being unfairly treated like this. So I just don't think it's fair and we've got to push for this to change.

JOURNALIST: It's at Glenorchy LINC today at 11:30am. Are you going to be going to any other areas at all, like Sorell, Huonville, at all? Or is it just Glenorchy?

SINGH: I would love to. This is a start. I think that my colleague Anne Urquhart ran one up in Devonport or Burnie a little while ago. So we are as a party getting the word out there. But this is a start for the southern part of the state anyway.

X: Will you be working with Andrew Wilkie on this?

SINGH: I understand that Andrew has tried to put up a Private Member’s Bill so I would like to talk to Andrew for sure about what he has tried to do.

X: OK. Well, all the best with it today. It'll be interesting to see and to hear back from some people's stories of what they're being charged. That $6 price tag you mentioned, that seems astronomical.

SINGH: Absolutely. But even the little $2.20, $2.75, they all add up and by the end of the year you've paid just a ridiculous amount if you add up all the different bills.

X: And if you're a massive corporation charging hundreds of thousands of people that same price, you're having one hell of a Christmas party.

SINGH: Yeah, and I think also that companies are rewarding people who like the gold cards and things, to not have to pay. So it's a little elitist too.

X: Yes, you're right. That's a whole thing I hadn't even considered. Senator, thank-you so much for your time this morning.

SINGH: That's alright John. Nice to talk to you.

X: Hope it goes well for you, all the best.

SINGH: Thanks. Bye.

X: Senator Lisa Singh there and that forum on the paper billing fees is in Glenorchy today. Glenorchy LINC at 11:30am.