With Carol Brown MP, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers

Labor calls on the Turnbull Government to engage in genuine consultation with consumer groups and the National Relay Service (NRS) community on any proposed changes being considered as part of the current tender process, to ensure there is no diminution of access.

The NRS is an important service that enables Australians who are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment, to make and receive telephone calls.

Labor is disappointed that the Minister for Communications has referred to the NRS as a “safety net”.

We reject this language.

For Labor, the NRS is an enabler to ensure that all Australians can participate in society on an equitable basis.

The ongoing accessibility and quality of the NRS should be the priority.

The Minister has issued a tender which leaves open the prospect that several NRS services, which are currently available 24/7, would not be required to continue operating on a 24/7 basis.

If every member of the Australian Parliament can pick up a phone at 1am and make a telephone call, then this right should exist for persons with a disability or impairment as well.

For now, we are prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt as the NRS should be a bi-partisan endeavour.

However, if the tender begins to head down the wrong path, Labor stands ready to defend the rights of the community and the principles of access and equity upon which the NRS was founded.