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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 17482

Mr CREAN (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party. Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that three years ago telephone line rental fees were $11.65 per month and that, following the government's new pricing policy—which Labor opposed—line rental fees have just gone up to $26.50 per month and will soon exceed $30 per month? Won't these enormous line rental increases result in a net gain for Telstra of around $150 million over 12 months? How will privatising Telstra reverse this consumer rip-off and deliver fairer phone prices for all Australians? Why won't the Leader of the National Party adopt Labor's policy to keep Telstra in public hands and make it do its job of serving all Australians?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —As the Leader of the Opposition knows, of course, the real cost of telecommunications to consumers has come down massively over the last few decades. When I was young, to ring my grandparents in Sydney was an expensive exercise and you thought twice about doing it. Now, nobody thinks about the cost of a long-distance phone call. In real terms, it gets cheaper and cheaper.

The cost of sophisticated telecommunications is plainly on the way down, and it comes down faster the more competition you have. Let me make one other point. I am very proud of the improvement in telecommunications standards and outcomes in rural Australia since we came to power. In relation to adopting the Labor Party's policy, I will adopt, firstly, the Treasurer's approach to the counsel that we should always look at what the Labor Party does, not what it says, and, when it comes to privatisation, I will take my cue from what you said about Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank.