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Monday, 21 June 1999
Page: 5768

Senator MACKAY (5:53 PM) —I want to make it very clear that we find it very interesting that there is no intention on the government's part to have any legislative backing to this package. Presumably, we are required to take the government on trust again in relation to deal 2 of tranche 2 in relation to Tasmania.

Senator Calvert interjecting

Senator MACKAY —I notice Senator Calvert interjecting. Senator Calvert knows very well, because he actually did a lot of work behind the scenes to help in relation to this, that the work management centre was part of deal 1, tranche 1. In fact, Senator Harradine got commitments directly from the minister in relation to that. Of course, that closed in January. Not only that, but part of deal 1, tranche 1 was also the retention of the Hobart Telstra store, which is of course now going to close on 30 June. That was strike two for deal 1, tranche 1. Now we are being asked to trust the government in relation to the initiation and implementation of the initiatives, and the minister in a blase manner says, `You can trust us; we had no reason not to do this.' This is the very minister who gave Senator Harradine a personal commitment on the work management centre, which is no more.

Senator Alston —You mean Telstra gave a commitment.

Senator MACKAY —No, Minister, you gave Senator Harradine a commitment on the work management centre. Your office gave Senator Harradine a commitment on the work management centre being opened. We can go through that if you want. If you want to waste several hours on the saga of the work management centre, we can go through that.

On 30 June, Senator Harradine loses his powerful position in relation to the Senate and the honouring of this deal for Tasmania. It is an in-joke in Telstra in Tasmania and nationally that they are counting the sleeps until 30 June so that they do not have to be bothered with Tasmania and Telstra anymore. In fact, the CEO of Telstra has made comments to, as I understand it, a group of middle managers—if I am wrong, I am sure the minister will correct me—to the effect that he is not very interested in what happens in the Senate in relation to Telstra and staffing levels in Tasmania and that Telstra will be making the decisions in terms of staffing levels. That is correct. That is why the minister cannot answer any of these questions about staffing levels. He cannot give commitments in relation to prospective redundancies. We know—and it is the worst kept secret in Tasmania—that a number of redundancies have been put on hold until after 30 June.

The question I would again ask the minister is: given that Senator Harradine loses his position of influence on 30 June, how can it be empirically guaranteed that the deal that has been done with him will be carried out, given that deal 1, tranche 1 was not carried out, that we are still waiting for a number of initiatives and that a number of the commitments that were given were breached?