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Shadow Cabinet meeting, Ballarat, 17 February 1997: transcript of doorstop [telecommunications legislation]

BEAZLEY: There are two important decisions related to telecommunications legislation currently in the Parliament. We will move amendments to do these things. Firstly, ensure that on local calls there is no price discrimination between the city and the bush. Whatever price of local calls is charged in the city, same price will be charged in the bush. That's the first thing. and the second is: we will put into the legislation amendments which mean that broad banded services will be available in the bush as they are in the city. Now, there's question marks over both of those at the moment and our objective will be when we handle this legislation, to ensure that the needs of the bush are satisfied on both.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, petrol pricing, did that get a mention this morning?

BEAZLEY: Petrol pricing wasn't discussed today at the Shadow Cabinet meeting. We've discussed that at a previous Shadow Cabinet meeting. Our concern with petrol pricing, as we determined at that point of time is that the bush is able to get cheaper petrol. And the position we arrived at was that the organisation of the marketing should be such to ensure that all outlets get access, as do the majors, to each other's product at the cheapest possible price. Without that access there is no chance that petrol will come down in the bush. So, we have decided previously that we're going to pursue that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, in relation to defence, you're releasing a statement in regard to the Howard Government's decisions today?

BEAZLEY: Well, apparently Mr Howard has said in New Zealand that Australian defence spending will stay the same for at least another year and that the New Zealanders ought to follow suit. I would take it a point further. We have made an offer to the New Zealanders of four of our frigates in excellent terms and conditions. They've bought two, they should buy another two. Mr Howard should put pressure on his New Zealand colleagues that their role in upholding the relationship between our two countries and our ability to do things jointly would involve the operation of at least four frigates. Two to be operated efficiently is very, very difficult. So, they've got a good deal out of us on that and they ought to pursue it.

The second thing was on defence spending. He said he'd maintain it at least this level for another year. I reckon he could do better than that. He should develop a five year plan for defence as well as the rolling plans that they have at the moment and that five year plan should be based on at least the current level of defence spending if he's going to give the planners in defence the certainty that they need.

JOURNALIST: With the frigates. Is the Government actually using it, or do you think it's fair that the Government use that as a leverage, though, to the New Zealand Government?

BEAZLEY: I think it's a very reasonable position to arrive at. We spend a fair bit on defence in this country. We have a sizeable navy. It is as a result of decisions that we took, inclusive of something like 15 or 16 major surface war ships. We are persisting with that frigate program. The New Zealanders have acquired at least tow and they had an option for another two, which they must take up sometime in the next year or so to get them at the same price. If you were going to say that John Howard has been successful in his talks with the New Zealanders success in this area is measured by one thing only: are the extra frigates being bought?