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Transcript of doorstop interview: Melbourne:26 August 2006: Telstra; East Timor; David Hicks.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON KIM C BEAZLEY MP
TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, MELBOURNE,
26 AUGUST 2006
E & O E - PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Telstra, East Timor, David Hicks
BEAZLEY: The mums and dads of Australia have two months to force John Howard to backflip on this mistaken policy. The Opposition has the same two months as the mums and dads of Australia in getting John Howard to backflip on his intention to sell the rest of Telstra and put part of it into the Future Fund.
This is the wrong decision. This is not the right decision for nation-building. And that’s what we ought to be concerned about when we approach our telecommunications now.
The real issue in telecommunications is the roll-out of high-speed broadband. This is a surrender on that. It is a surrender of people’s control of the main instrument of telecommunications in this country and it is the wrong way to go.
Now, Howard’s done a lot of backflips in the course of the last few weeks. He ought to do another one now and take the remaining shares off the market, not putting them on. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Howard says you should apologise for not backing the sale when it was put up to the Senate when the price was a lot higher.
BEAZLEY: John Howard’s got a lot to explain to the T2 shareholders. He spruiked T2 and he betrayed them. He inveigled many Australians to purchase Telstra shares at a price he knew was unsustainable. Now they are suffering as a result of things that he has done. John Howard in his typical mode will point the finger at everyone else. Well what John Howard should do now is backflip. That’s what he should do.
JOURNALIST: Would they be suffering a lot less if the sale had gone through when the price was higher?
BEAZLEY: Selling Telstra was always the wrong thing. And the Labor Party has taken a strong stand on principle on this. The Labor Party has said Telstra and its operations are about nation building, not about a private opportunity. We’ve been straight on that.
The bloke who has not been straight with the Australian people is John Howard. When he first went down the road of privatisation, he said: a third was enough and didn’t need to sell any more than that. And all of a sudden he changed on that and said: “well, no we’ll sell the whole lot”.
What John Howard should have been saying is; “We want out of Telstra the best telecommunications system in the world, or at least as good as anything else that is out there in the international community”. Knowing how vital telecommunications are now to the competitive position of the country.
Now he has left us in a situation where our telecommunications system simply isn’t as good as that in most of our competitors and that is what he should be concentrating on.
JOURNALIST: Mr Howard’s also said he won’t speculate on the potential price of the T3 shares, what does that tell you?
BEAZLEY: Well take a look at his record. He got up there and he talked up the T2 price last time he put shares on the market. That was entirely the wrong thing to do. That would have been against all the advice he was getting from the people who were informing him how he should conduct himself during the sale. Nevertheless he chose to do that and he boosted the price as he talked it up. And since then, the T2 shareholders, the mums and dads, have felt betrayed.
He should have no comments, of course, on a proposition that shares ought to or ought not to be purchased. What he should be doing however is not going down that road. He should be backflipping.
JOURNALIST: What impact will this have on the Future Fund, having these excess shares dumped there?
BEAZLEY: Well, you know, Howard is effectively surrendering control in relation to Telstra. He is surrendering it in two directions, one the additional sale of shares to the public, the other towards the Future Fund.
The effect of that, frankly, is going to be that the shares left in the Future Fund will overhang the market for a very long period of time. How long, one can’t say, but they will overhang the market for a very long period of time, which will keep the share price suppressed. So that is Howard’s decision and it is the wrong decision.
JOURNALIST: Will it distort the market?
BEAZLEY: It will overhang the market and it will keep the price down. That’s not just the advice from me, but you can see that in most of the commentary that is associated with it. You know what they should be doing at this moment, is not thinking about selling the rest of Telstra.
Even if you believed - as I do not - in privatising the rest of Telstra, you would not do it now. What you would do would be to concentrate on getting the best communication system you conceivably could.
In the Reply to the last Budget that Costello brought down, I talked of Labor’s plans to roll out broadband, high speed broadband, which would increase the speed of broadband in this county, by about 15-25 times what it is at the moment. Even if we did that, we would only catch up to the service which is now available in Slovenia. It shows us now have far behind we’ve gone in telecommunications. This is urgent. This is what he should be concentrating on, not privatisation. If you must think of privatisation - and we say no - but if you must, wait until you’ve finished that process before you do it.
And you’ve got to start saying, on telecommunication, first things first. And first things are the character of the service that Telstra provides and our telecommunication system provides Australian business, Australian educators and the Australian people.
And if that was in your heart, if that nation building concern was in your heart, we would not be having this discuss today. And that is what I want to get into Howard’s heart and get him to backflipping, backflipping again, so we can start to concrete on the important things.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the UN’s decision to send a Peace Keeping Force to East Timor?
BEAZLEY: We’ve got to be there and we’ve got to stay long enough to get the job completed this time. We pulled them out to early, that is the truth. And this is not the only time we have done that, we have done that repeatedly I am afraid. This time we have to make absolutely certain that the situation is stabilized and Australia must play a role.
JOURNALIST: How long do you think they should stay there then?
BEAZLEY: I don’t think that that is a quantifiable time. You will not be able to put a date on when the situation in Timor indicates that you can afford to do that. We were too obsessed about dates last time. Now what we’ve got to do is get the job done properly.
JOURNALIST: David Hicks’ defence lawyer Michael Mori says he could be facing the death penalty under the current system. What do you think about that?
BEAZLEY: Well that is completely unacceptable. Look we have said from day one about David Hicks this - and it remains to be the case - and really the Australian Government have got to put a bit of pressure on the US to get to this position: we say this - either put David Hicks on trial in a proper judicial process in the United States to answer the charges that have been levelled against him, or send him home. One or other.
Now the Australian Government needs to put that clearly to the US: not fiddle around the edges, one of the other. Either he goes on trial in a proper US judicial process or he gets sent home.
Now, I absolutely trust the US civilian judicial process. It’s one of the toughest and fairest in the world. And if he’s got a case to answer, that is an appropriate location for him to answer it. But if you’re not going to try him under that system, and try to cobble together something else which does not have the rules that that system has, well I say no.