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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3345

Mr KATTER (5:56 PM) —I think there is a great ideological divide between the crossbenchers in this place and the two mainstream parties. Basically, we believe essential services should be in the hands of the people and not in the hands of private enterprise, which can be sold off—even if they were not sold off to overseas interests. Has it being good for us, with Queensland Rail, when it was corporatised and parcels went over? We had a 600 per cent increase in country areas in the cost of our parcels freight—600 per cent! Was it good for us? It was disastrous for us. In electricity, there has been a doubling of cost since it was corporatised in Queensland—a doubling of costs in the space of six or seven years. Free-skies policy? I think it has been good for the cities; absolutely disastrous for some regional areas. We went from $100 to get from Mount Isa to Townsville to $400. It would be nice to see my son a bit, but it slows you down if it is a thousand bucks to get across to the coast!

In banking: when we used to get into trouble, we had our state bank and it gave us interest rates of two per cent. When we get into trouble now it goes up to 12 per cent! So sugar farmers all over the place are paying 12 per cent at the present moment. The cost of a motor car: the free market was going to cut down the cost of a motor car. It went up 600 per cent! We were told that when the tariffs were removed prices were going to go down. They went up 600 per cent!

The real issue here is that the communications system has broken down. Under privatisation—and Ziggy Switkowski is not entirely innocent here—and under Sol Trujillo, the maintenance staff was halved, and almost halved again. So no maintenance was done. I put to the member for Wentworth that the maintenance was not only on the mainlines, but it was on the maintenance to the houses as well. Heaven only knows, the system is 60 or 70 years old in delivering to the houses themselves, but without any maintenance done on it in the last 10 or 15 years, that system has collapsed. The real issue here is whether you are going to continue with a collapsed system or whether you are going to replace that system with state-of-the-art modern technology. The member for Kooyong—and I notice it is the members for Kooyong and Bradfield who are speaking in this place, not the members from regional Australia; there has been a certain lack of enthusiasm from them! They are very keen to stop this from going ahead, so that once again the country can be stripped to look after the already fat and wealthy cities of Australia.

Let me just say that the system has collapsed and it has to be replaced. The cost of replacement is going to have to be met by somebody. Clearly, the corporate entities are not going to meet that cost, so the taxpayer is going to have to meet that cost. That cost has to be met because you people—and also the ALP—privatised Telstra. You told us it was going to cut our costs down and that things would be maintained.

I sat there in that joint party room and they said, ‘We will give you a universal service obligation.’ I do not like to come into this place and pronounce high-sounding ideals. I like to be very specific. During 20 years in the state parliament I had one town go out for one day. Since the complete privatisation of Telstra I have had seven communities go out for up to two weeks, and these are big communities. The reason it is not working now is that the system has not been maintained. The wonder boy, Mr Trujillo, came to this country and kept halving the maintenance crews, and then said, ‘Aren’t we making a lot of money and aren’t I a grand fellow?’ He then walked away with $54 million, according to the newspapers.

The honourable member for Kooyong thinks it is funny that he got away with $54 million and that Telstra’s system across Australia collapsed. He thinks this is a humorous subject that he can laugh at. Let me tell you: it is no laughing matter when you talk to ordinary people who tell you that they cannot afford to keep up their telephone, electricity or water charges. Who was responsible for that? Your privatisation was responsible for that. You looked after your mates, though; they did very well indeed. (Time expired)