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Thursday, 9 July 1998
Page: 5414

Senator FAULKNER (9:15 PM) —Let me first deal with the one substantive issue that the Manager of Government Business, Senator Campbell, raised in his contribution. He said that the opposition refused to give the government leave to move that motion. That is true. But, of course, the government had an opportunity at any time before lunch today to give a government business notice of motion. That was provided for in the order of the Senate when this extra sitting week was agreed to. There was no opportunity for any opposition or non-government notices of motion, but there was a capacity for the government to give notice this morning and this incompetent Manager of Government Business failed to do so. He dropped the ball again.

Let me say this about the urgency motion before the chair: this issue is about the government's attempt to ram the Telstra legislation through the Senate. I want to make it absolutely clear that we do not consider that there is any urgency in the Telstra legislation. After all, even Mr Howard said that he would not proclaim such legislation until after the next election. This is the same Mr Howard who said he would not even contemplate full privatisation of Telstra during this term of parliament. And we are being asked by the government tonight to agree to Mr Howard's broken promise, his broken commitment to the Australian people. We are also being asked to try to cover up for the fact that the National Party, as members of the coalition government, have not got the guts, have not got the bottle, to stand up to John Howard. They are going to let their constituency down. They are going to let the bush down. They are going to roll over and agree with the Liberals. Each and every National Party senator is going to vote for the full privatisation of Telstra when this matter comes on for debate in this parliament.

The Labor Party will stand behind the bush and the majority of the Australian people and we will fight to protect Telstra in full public ownership. The National Party will not do it, but I give this guarantee: the Labor Party will. We will fight on this issue.

This has been done without any consultation at all from the government. The first I knew about this particular motion was a phone call to my office while I was not there. The message was taken in my office; the motion was dropped in the chamber. There was no consultation, no effort to go through the usual courtesies—a meeting with the leaders and whips. That is what is normally done in this place. No way would Senator Campbell or Senator Hill or others from the government extend those usual courtesies to the opposition or, I suspect, the minor parties, in relation to this particular issue.

So do not come in here to debate with these mealy-mouthed words. The government had an opportunity to give a notice of motion this morning. They did not do it. They should have done it. They dropped the ball. They failed to do what they ought to have done so that that motion could have been debated properly tomorrow morning. They did not do that. They did not consult. Now they come in here, because they have blundered, they have failed, and propose that the opposition give leave so they can consummate a deal which has been done behind closed doors. The National Party has been bought for $400 million—we will hear the first part of the sale of Telstra package tomorrow. They are asking the Senate to agree with that. They are asking the Senate and the opposition to endorse that approach. We will not. We will stand and fight on Telstra; we will protect the interests of all the Australian community and, I can assure you, particularly those in the bush—in rural and regional Australia we will defend them. We will defend Telstra.