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[Shadow Communications Minister blocked from meeting with Mr Frank Blount, CEO of Telstra]

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23 April 1996


rn: 06 277 3844 OR 08 344 8766 FAX: 06 277 3121 OR 08 344 '7355

Senator Chris Schacht, Shadow Minister for Communications today revealed he had been

blocked from meeting with Mr Frank Blount, CEO of Telstra by the office of the Minister for Communications & the Arts, Senator Alston.

Senator Schacht was advised by Mr Blount's office late this morning that a briefing scheduled for this evening had been cancelled following a directive from Senator Alston's office.

"It is remarkable, following comment from Mr Howard in the media yesterday that the Coalition had had access to Telstra while in opposition, but now chooses to deny access to me," Senator Schacht said.

"The community should be concerned about the processes of democracy when the Government blocks access to legitimate briefings.

"Is this to be the hallinark of the Coalition Government?

"The community has expressed concerns about the partial sale of Telstra and with the prospect of massive job cuts across the board, the role of the Opposition in monitoring these processes is vital.

With Federal Parliament commencing next week the Government has indicated that one of the first pieces of legislation to be introduced will be the privatisation of Telstra: It appears that the Government wants to stifle debate by prohibiting the Opposition from having legitimate access to information from Australia's biggest Government owned company.

"I object strongly to the Government's decision to restrict the availability of information to the public on this very important issue and I will continue to request that I and other relevant community organisations be given briefings by Telstra," said Senator Schacht,

Contact: Carol Sutherland (0419-837 563)