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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5886

Senator MASON (3:37 PM) —I must concede that I enjoyed Senator Faulkner's performance last night on SBS with Mr Whitlam far more than his performance here this afternoon in relation to Telstra and the COT cases.

Senator Ferris —He was hamming it up.

Senator MASON —He was hamming it up. The issue raised by Senator Faulkner is a diversion. It is a diversion from the poverty of policy that afflicts the Labor Party; the fact that the Labor Party has virtually no policies and the fact that instead they are talking about irrelevant things and witch-hunts. It is not so long ago that we spoke about border protection, and the diversion was the children overboard inquiry. That did not go too well for the Labor Party either. We have had tax reform before that and that did not go too well either. You see, the Labor Party has very few policies and the policies that they do have are wrong—on tax reform, on border protection or whatever, and similarly on telecommunications. They are wrong for this reason. Labor is still stuck in a sort of post-Keynesian age where they believe that, if the government owns a resource, that resource or utility will provide far better services to the public. Do you know what? PMG, Telecom and then Telstra were owned by the government for 50 years, and the services in the bush were atrocious. It was entirely owned by the government: not, as it is today, 51 per cent but 100 per cent.

Senator Ian Campbell —The services in the city were atrocious.

Senator MASON —Exactly, as Senator Campbell says, the services in the cities were appalling. But somehow there is this really naive social democratic view that if the government owns a utility it will be better. Let me tell you, I have relatives in central western Queensland that until a few years ago used to have party lines. But the fact is—

Senator Ludwig —You wouldn't remember a party line.

Senator MASON —That is right. Telstra, as it became privatised, increased the services to the bush. Nothing indicates more clearly the failure of the Labor Party and left-wing ideology of the 20th century. The Labor Party has not yet come to terms with the fact that government owned enterprises do not necessarily deliver better services to the public. Let me say that again. Government owned enterprises do not necessarily give better services to members of the public; that is the myth from the Labor Party, and they are still stuck on that in the year 2002. The Estens report, of course, is correct: Telstra should be privatised when the services in the bush are adequate. It says that the inquiry:

... is confident that arrangements that have been put in place over the past five years (including the TSI response), together with commercial developments, and the Inquiry's further recommendations, will create an environment into the future where regional, rural and remote Australians will be able to benefit fully from advances in telecommunications technology and services.

Again the Labor Party is falling into the trap. They think—just like with the GST—that if they keep hammering on an issue and make themselves as small a target as possible, they will do well electorally. It did not work too well in 2001, did it? For such a large man, Mr Beazley became the god of small things and suffered accordingly.

In relation to the COT cases, Mr Deputy President, you will be pleased to know that I do not watch the Sunday program—I am in church. However, I am told that it is a very important program and that it raised this issue. Apparently the allegation is that Senator Alston interfered with the Victoria Police investigation into the COT cases. Let me read the media release that Senator Alston put out on 3 November:

My considered recollection is that, following a request to do so on behalf of the CoT cases by Senator Boswell,—

He has had a long history in these issues—

I contacted Mr Jepson in order to satisfy myself that any direct action I might take in regard to Telstra did not compromise any investigation which might be undertaken by the Victoria Police.

Senator Alston did not want to compromise any investigation being taken by the Victoria Police. He never said—despite what the opposition has said—that he was aware of claims by Mrs Garms and the Sunday program that she never requested him to contact the Victoria Police. Senator Alston never said that. He always said that the request came from Senator Boswell. (Time expired)