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Grim forecast for regional Australia



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TEL: 10 J u 1 ’ 96 15 : 59 No .010 P .02

Senator Meg Lees Australian Democrats Deputy Leader and Environment Spokesperson

July 10. 1996 MEDIA RELEASE 96/395

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GRIM FORECAST FOR REGIONAL AUSTRALIA Inquiry told of fears over proposed Telstra selloff

REGIONAL Australia will suffer If the partial sale of Telstra goes ahead, a former Townsville Mayor has warned the Senate Committee hearing on the proposed privatisation of Telstra.

Former mayor Mike Reynolds, who now Is director of the centre for Social and Welfare Research at James Cook University, has serious concerns about the “detrimental effect" that Telstra privatisation could have on regional development and employment

"The privatisation of Telstra could see a dismembering of the excellent Telstra facilities that have been developed in this regional area and this would have massive Implications for the Townsville regional economy," Mr Reynolds said in his submission to the committee.

Mr Reynolds, who also is chairman of the Townsville Port Authority, asked the Senate Committee to take into account the impact of privatising Telstra for regional development throughout Australia.

“I believe that the public of Australia have been extremely well served by Telstra staying in public ownership and that the move towards privatisation would be detrimental to the many hundred of thousands of people living in regional Australia," he stated.

A grim economic picture also was delivered to the committee, with a submission from Professor John Quiggin of James Cook University's Department of Economics.

Professor Quiggin revealed taxpayers would lose about $30 billion as a result of Telstra privatisation, and partial privatisation would ultimately lead to substantial foreign ownership of the company. Professor Quiggin has studied the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank and Serum

Laboratories.

He argues that typically "advocates of privatisation offer nothing more than dogmatic assertions of faith in the market... based on the claim that since other countries are privatising, Australia should do likewise".

Australian Democrats Deputy Leader Senator Meg Lees, who is chairing the committee, said the Townsville submissions illustrated community and academic concern over the dilution of ownership of a major public asset.

"The fears in regional Australia - that jobs will be lost and services reduced - have been summed up perfectly by these submissions," Senator Lees said.

‘ Economically and socially, the partial sale of Telstra would not only hurt regional residents, but all Australians."

For details call Kelly Westell on (08) 295 8911 or after hours on (08) 293 7804.

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