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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7363

Senator HARRIS (12:40 PM) —I rise to indicate that One Nation will support the government's amendments, and I would like to make some general comments in relation to the Telecommunications Competition Bill 2002 and its proposal to change sections of the act. These proposed changes originally were designed to encourage foreign and domestic companies to compete with Telstra in the domestic market. However, following the release of the Productivity Commission's report, the government to a large degree initially ignored the report and tended to focus on the complaints of Singapore Telecom, Optus, New Zealand AAPT, MCT and Primus. As a result, One Nation believes that the original proposals put forward by the government would have left Telstra exposed in the market in a way that would not be in the best interests of Australia. Subsequently, Telstra has held considerable consultation with the government, and the government, as we see here today, is bringing in a considerable group of amendments to the bill in its original form.

One Nation does have concerns with some of the proposals by both the Labor Party and the Democrats to alter the bill in such a way that would require Telstra to give an unfair competitive advantage to those other competitors. Let me explain it this way: if the Labor and Democrat amendments are successful, they will require Telstra to provide to the public arena some areas that are more profitable than others. Their proposal would allow the competitors to be able to select, based on Telstra's data, the areas that they should concentrate on and then, to a degree, leave Telstra to carry the more unproductive areas. I believe that that is not in the best interests of Australia. It is in the best interests of keeping Telstra as a government majority owned entity. I believe that ultimately, if the Labor amendments and the Democrat amendments were to succeed, we would end up with a situation where Telstra could in all probability lose its market dominance and, to some degree, be exposed to being taken over by overseas interests. I do not believe that is in the best interests of Australia as a nation, both from a security point of view and purely from the point of Telstra returning to the government a considerable amount of revenue.

So One Nation places on the record very clearly that we will be supporting the government's amendments and the bill but will be opposing both Labor's and the Democrats' amendments. We believe that they would undo, to a large degree, Telstra's input and the work that Telstra has been able to achieve by convincing the government of the dangers of allowing the other market players to have unfettered access to Telstra's profit margins, its statistics and the like. Finally, I place clearly on the record that One Nation is supporting the government's bill and the government amendments in the form that the government puts them forward.