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Telstra to make public pay phone calls around Australia free

Telstra to make public pay phone calls around Australia free

Australians will be able to make free calls from public pay phones across the country under a new Telstra initiative.

Standard national calls and SMS from Telstra’s network of more than 15,000 pay phones will be made free from Tuesday, while pay phones will become completely coinless from 1 October.

But consumers will still have to pay for overseas calls.

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About 11m calls were made across Telstra pay phones in the past year, including 230,000 calls to critical services such as triple zero and Lifeline.

The Telstra chief executive, Andrew Penn, said pay phones were a vital lifeline, particularly for the homeless and people escaping an unsafe situation.

“I have been moved seeing firsthand queues of people waiting in line to use a payphone to tell their family and friends they’re safe after a bushfire, a cyclone or some other natural disaster has taken the mobile network down,” he said.

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“I can only imagine the relief their families feel knowing their loved one is safe.”

Telstra has previously made national calls on its pay phones free over the Christmas and new year period, making it easier for the homeless to contact others.

Major Brendan Nottle of the Salvation Army labelled the decision a “game-changer” that could lift vulnerable Australians out of social poverty and isolation.

“The reality is this piece of infrastructure is absolutely critical because a lot of Australians either don’t have a mobile phone, lose it or the phone’s charger, or simply run out of credit,” he said.