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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19204


Mrs HULL (1:16 PM) —It is well-known throughout this House that I oppose privatisation and deregulation. My first speech clearly articulates this strong opinion. I am an avid protectionist who supports single desk for rice and wheat, and who opposed state-induced dairy deregulation. I abhor the Labor Party actions of selling off the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. As a small business person, I constantly voice my concern about the ravages of predatory pricing and abuse of market power by large corporates. I supported the second tranche sale of Telstra, as I believed the injection of equity would provide substantial upgrades of services and telecommunications infrastructure in rural and regional areas, while the Australian people would still have majority shareholding with a social obligation. This is much the same as many family businesses requiring an equity partner to enable strength and economic viability. Indeed, this has happened and vast improvements have been achieved. This government has exceeded all expectations in the delivery of services to country people and no-one, least of all I, can deny this.

In addition, this government has taken Telstra from the low levels of return that were inadequate under the management of a Labor government to a position where 50.1 per cent of Telstra exceeds the revenue raised from 100 per cent ownership of Telstra. However, today I have abstained from voting in this House for a bill that would enable the full privatisation or sale of Telstra. I accept that the bill now before the House will go a long way to securing improved services and future-proofing the organisation against moves by future governments, particularly a Labor Party government, to downgrade services in country Australia, as a Labor government did with the banks—specifically, the Commonwealth Bank service. However, it is my view that the bill should not be acted upon until the Australian people have a direct opportunity to make their views known. Therefore, I propose an amendment—which has been circulated in the House under my name—that would see the bill not acted upon until the people of Australia have had their say in a referendum run in conjunction with the next federal election. I move:

(1) Clause 2, page 1 (lines 8 to 10), omit sub-clause (1), substitute:

(1) Each provision of this Act specified in column 1 of the table commences, or is taken to have com-menced, on the day or at the time specified in col-umn 2 of the table, providing that all pro-visions of the Act have been approved by the Australian people at a plebiscite held in con-junction with the next Federal election.