A spokesman for Mr Fletcher said states were being asked to consider the important role of communications services when making their decisions.
Legal restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 shutdown are being enforced by state and territory governments. Consistency on essential services is a priority of the emergency national cabinet of federal, state and territory leaders and the “national co-ordination mechanism” underpinning the response.
A Telstra spokesman said connectivity was critical to support government, business and the community through the COVID-19 crisis.
He said the company was being treated as an essential service by governments, and staff carried letters to authorise their movements.
“There is a need for consistent exemptions from COVID-19 restrictions across the country, as there will be times when our techs need to move across state borders to keep our customers connected,” the spokesman said.
Vodafone corporate affairs director Dan Lloyd said the telco provider was working with the government to ensure maintenance teams were not restricted but inclusion of the provider as an essential service would prevent any issues in future.
“We are working closely with the federal and state governments to ensure our maintenance crews are not restricted or delayed from crossing state and territory borders to carry out essential work at our mobile sites,” Mr Lloyd said.
“To date, our crews haven’t experienced any issues, but we would like to see the inclusion of the telecommunications sector in any national declaration of essential services to ensure problems don’t arise in the future.”
Australians have been urged to stay home unless they must leave for work or other essential purposes, with varying versions of the rule across jurisdictions. Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory have also put in place border restrictions, with some discretionary exemptions.
The border between Queensland and NSW is close to population centres in both states and the ability to cross freely is a key issue for companies operating in the area.
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Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.