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Later this morning the Senate should resolve the Online



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M E D I A S T A T E M E N T Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Communications

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 26 MAY 1999

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Online Services, Telstra

SMITH: Later this morning the Senate should resolve the Online Services Bill which sets the scene for the Telstra debate later today and tomorrow.

Firstly, on Online Services, the Opposition is very disappointed that the Government hasn't agreed to its thoughtful amendments. You would have probably noticed that every division has been won by a majority o f two, which is the Government combined with Senator Harradine and Senator Colston. So, it's pretty clear there is a majority o f the Senate who will support the Government's Bill.

We're very disappointed, in particular, that our sunset clause has been defeated because we think the Government's greatest crime in this area is to seek to create the impression that the mere passage of this Bill will solve the problem. It won't. That's why we thought a sunset clause was important to force the Parliament to return to this issue in the future.

So far as Telstra is concerned, we should all remember that the Government's Budget bottom line is predicated on the sale o f 100 per cent o f Telstra. It's already been made clear by Senator Harradine that he won't support a full sale. ยท

I've noticed the Government this week saying they won't move to restrict the sale o f Telstra to a further 16 per cent but that any Senator can so move. People should please understand that the Opposition's approach is that we oppose the Bill in its

entirety. We are opposed to the sale o f one more share of Telstra.

So, any Senator who seeks to amend the Bill to authorise the sale to 16 per cent more o f Telstra needs to look elsewhere for a majority on the floor of the Senate. We oppose the Bill in its entirety. We will not support a Bill which authorises the sale o f 16 per cent. And any Senator who seeks to restrict the sale to 16 per cent needs to find a majority elsewhere on the floor of the Senate.

I remind Senator Harradine that the more of Telstra you sell, the less influence you have. The more o f Telstra you sell, the less dividend there will be in the long-term to look after regional telecommunications infrastructure.

JOURNALIST: How ironic is it that Peter Reith and Senator Harradine actually spoke and kissed and made up, as it were, over Peter Reith's comments against Senator HSrradine?

SMITH: Well. I thought Peter Reith's comments were quite outrageous. In the dealings that I've had with Senator Harradine, what he has said publicly he has said privately. So, I thought those comments were outrageous and I thought it was appropriate that Mr Reith apologise.

JOURNALIST: But do you suspect that the rapprochement makes it more likely that Senator Harradine will support the Telstra legislation?

SMITH: Senator Harradine has said consistently that he treats this matter on its merits and that he approaches policy on the basis of policy. I'm very happy to take that assurance at face value. I'm very happy that he is focussing on the real issues on the Telstra debate which are: the more o f Telstra you sell, the less

influence the Commonwealth and the public have. The more o f Telstra you sell, the less dividend there is for the future. The more of Telstra you sell, the worse services to rural and regional Australia will become.

JOURNALIST: Do you think we will actually get to Telstra this week, though?

SMITH: Well, far be it from me to predict what might occur in the

Senate. But I'm reasonably confident that sometime later this morning the Senate will resolve the Online Services Bill. That does set the scene for the commencement o f the debate later today or tomorrow.

As I said on Online Services, we're contemplating putting a line in the sand. Our amendments have been defeated and we're quite concerned at the Government's presentation that the mere passage o f their Bill solves the problem for Australia's mums and dads. It doesn't. The only effective solution in this area is to make sure the mums and dads understand the use o f the Internet and understand the capacity o f end use filtering arrangements.

JOURNALIST: So, you're not going to support the Bill. Would you look to amend it later on?

SMITH: Well, we will contemplate our position at the conclusion o f the Committee debate. But. as I say, we are deeply disappointed that the Government hasn't adopted any o f our amendments. All of our amendments have been defeated by a combination of the Government, Senator Harradine and Senator Colston. So, we're contemplating putting a line in the sand, to make the point this doesn't solve the problem so far as the general public is concerned.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect Senator Colston to actually vote to support the Online Bill?

SMITH: Well. I haven't seen Senator Colston in every division, but I'm assured by colleagues that in every division in the Senate on Online Services, our amendments have been defeated by a combination of the Government, Senator

Colston and Senator Harradine. So, I'm assuming that in a sense our position is a bit abstract, because there's a clear majority there for the Government's position, supportecfon the floor o f the Senate by the Government, Senator Harradine and Senator Colston.

JOURNALIST: Senator Brown is going to move am otion this morning to assert that people who kick with the left foot are indeed normal. Do you think people who kick with the left foot are normal?

SMITH: Well, I noticed Senator Alston's comments in this respect. The only comment I'd make is this: the only kicks that Senator Alston has been getting lately have been own goals and this is another example, whether it was a left foot kick or a right foot kick.

ends