Telcos’ low blow after bushfire crisis
THE Queensland Government is furious with Australia's telcos after finding out they will charge taxpayers for the 1.2 million emergency text messages sent during the recent catastrophic bushfires.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk now wants telcos to be forced to provide disaster warning messages free of charge, as she braces for a bill that could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the messages.
It comes as the Premier fears costs could rise further ahead of a resurgent Cyclone Owen, which is set to hit the coast before potential flooding later this week.
News Queensland can reveal the Premier will today ask Prime Minister Scott Morrison to bring in new laws to make the telecommunication giants provide the messages as a free community service.
'If sending those texts isn't a community service, then I don't know what is," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I got the 'leave now' message when visiting Kabra near Gracemere.
"The technology is simple. It shouldn't be expensive."
At the height of the state's bushfire emergency last month, the entire town of Gracemere - which is west of Rockhampton and has a population of 8000 - was evacuated.
The Commonwealth has introduced "big stick" divestiture laws in a bid to stop energy generators "gaming" the system.
Ms Palaszczuk wants the Federal Government to introduce a big stick for the telcos.
"We've no sooner put out the fires and now a cyclone is menacing our state," she said.
"We are so grateful for the help we received from all the other states who sent thousands of fire fighters to us but, as we've just seen, we really need this technology in Queensland.
"Emergency warning like these should be provided as a community service."
The state is already shelling out $23 million over four years on a new emergency alert system, which is due to be delivered by July 2020.
Ms Palaszczuk said she would ensure the issue was discussed at today's Council of Australian Governments in Adelaide.
She is hoping the Commonwealth and her fellow state leaders will get on board.
The state's major telcos have been approached for comment.