Committee rejects Greens' Sensis jobs amendment

The Greens' proposal to stop Telstra's planned job cuts to the struggling directory business Sensis has been rejected by a parliamentary committee.

A parliamentary committee has rejected a proposed amendment by Greens MP Adam Bandt to telecommunications consumer protection legislation that would have required the White Pages and Yellow Pages to be made in Australia.

In February, Telstra announced that it would cut 648 jobs in the struggling directory business Sensis with 391 back-of-house and customer-care positions to be outsourced.

Bandt proposed to strengthen the role of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), so that the Telecommunications Act could be amended so that any work undertaken by Telstra to produce a directory such as the White Pages or the Yellow Pages must be done in Australia. The effect of this amendment would likely significantly impact Telstra's plan to outsource the Sensis jobs to India.

The committee, chaired by Labor Senator Doug Cameron, said it was concerned for local jobs, but the proposed amendments were "inconsistent with the scheme of this Bill", and suggested that they would be better for a stand-alone Bill.

In response, Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said that the proposed amendments would not obligate Telstra to keep producing the directory; rather, it would merely seek to maintain the status quo.

"A job in graphic design or in a call centre should be worth as much as a job making a car or digging up ore," he said. "Governments spend billions supporting the latter, yet seem unwilling to extend the same help to those in the services sector.

"The simple move of requiring onshore production would — at no cost to the government — protect hundreds of jobs."

The committee recommended that the legislation be passed after it is amended to state that developers of codes of practice not be required to publish submissions to that code that contain comments or information that is offensive, defamatory, or confidential.