• Payphone in the outback
    Payphone in the outback

Here's some good news for anyone whose mobile phone has ever run out of juice but you didn't have any coins for the local payphone.

Local and national phone calls with be fee-free as part of Telstra's payphone overhaul, as well as calls to Australian mobile phone numbers, with no restrictions other than a six-hour limit on phone calls. However, consumers will still have to pay to call overseas.

The Salvation Army called the move a “game-changer” that could help lift vulnerable Australians out of “social isolation,” while the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network also welcomed the move as a vital lifeline from cities to regional areas.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn, announced the change at an event on Tuesday morning, said more than 11 million phone calls were made using public telephones in Australia last year despite their reputation as historical artefacts.

“It’s interesting because now people look at payphones and just assume that they are a thing of the past and nobody uses them anymore,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mr Penn said 230,000 payphone calls last year connected callers to critical services, such as Lifeline and triple-0, and the public phones provided crucial assistance to victims of crime.

“There’s a number of situations where I’ve seen first-hand how they have made a difference in difficult circumstances,” he said.

“With victims of domestic violence often what will happen is a perpetrator will confiscate or steal the only communication device that their victim may have. And so often a payphone can be the only way in which a victim can contact the outside world and get help.”

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