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Ron Mark Claims Rejected

1 May 2002

Responding to a New Zealand First media release issued today, Defence Minister Mark Burton said it disappoints him that Ron Mark is claiming credit where no credit is due.

"The concerns of our defence personnel serving in East Timor regarding the cost of phone calls to their families back in New Zealand were brought to my attention in late January," Mark Burton said.

"The matter was immediately raised with Telecom, who quickly responded by coming up with a new solution for East Timor personnel and their families in New Zealand, involving the use of calling cards.

"In mid-February this information was conveyed to defence force staff. In addition, 700 $15 phone cards were given away to the families of soldiers in East Timor. I made no public statement at the time because the matter had been quickly and positively resolved and Telecom was not seeking publicity for what was a generous response.

"It has taken Mr Mark another three months to catch up with what has happened, and I am saddened he is trying to claim credit for something he had no influence over. This is a rather desperate attempt at an election year headline grab," Mark Burton said.

Attached: Letter from Telecom, dated 12th February 2002

Level 2, North Tower, Telecom Networks House
68-86 Jervois Quay, P O Box 570, Wellington

Tuesday 12 February 2002

Hon Mark Burton
Minister of Defence
Parliament Buildings

Dear Minister

Telecom recently gave New Zealand Defence information on calls between New Zealand and Defence Force personnel serving in East Timor, in order to answer a query that had been addressed to you. This concerned a measure we had put in place to reduce the cost of calls between New Zealand families and personnel in East Timor. We’ve had to change that procedure and I wanted to update you on the change as soon as possible.

To background you, the situation arose after Telecom made a number of price changes on 1 February, including an increase in the cost of calls to international mobiles – which reflected a 44% increase in time spent on calls to international mobiles in the past year.

Personnel in East Timor use mobile phones which are covered by Telstra’s Australian network. Therefore the effect for them was an increase to new rates of 99 cents per minute for peak calls and 59 cents per minute off-peak. At the same time the $4 and $8 caps for international weeknight and weekend calls was no longer available for calls to mobile phones.

Telecom was concerned at this outcome for New Zealand Defence Force staff serving abroad and looked for a way to reduce the cost of calls. At first we developed a solution based on our International Home 0800 package which offered a $10 off-peak cap on the price of calls. To help adjust to the new scheme we removed the surcharge of $2.80 which these calls normally attract. This, in essence, was in the information we conveyed to Defence.

However, since than we have found that Telstra Mobile in Australia charges its users for calls to New Zealand 0800 numbers, so this solution would not work.

As a result we have had to find a new solution for East Timor personnel and their families in New Zealand. We are now advising the families of Defence Force staff in East Timor to use our Yabba cards to make calls.

Yabba calls to Australia are priced at 25c per minute 24 hours a day. A $10 cap applies off-peak (6pm to 8am weeknights, all weekend from 6pm Friday to 8am Monday and National statutory holidays).

We have conveyed this information to Defence Force staff – and can I note that we have been impressed with the professionalism and helpfulness they have shown as, together, we’ve worked to find a solution for soldiers serving in East Timor.

As a gesture of goodwill, and to help families get adjusted to using the cards, we have given 700 $15 Yabba cards the Community Services Office of the Defence Force. These will be distributed to the families of soldiers in East Timor in the “Bugle” newsletter to be posted on Thursday 14 February.

It is worth noting that we can only make this offer as long as Telstra continues to cover East Timor within its mobile phone network. This is an area outside our control, of course.

I hope this information is helpful. Please get in touch if you need more.

Kind regards

John Goulter

© Scoop Media

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