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Labor has no credibility on Telstra

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John Anderson, MR Deputy Leader, National Party of Australia Shadow Minister for Primary Industry Media

C anberra: Phone (06) 2 7 7 4074

Release G unnedah: Phone (067) 4 2 3 1 5 5 Labor has no credibility on Telstra

The Prime Minister and the Federal Labor Party had no credibility when it came to the ownership o f Telstra, National Party Deputy Leader, John Anderson, said today.

M r Anderson, the Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, said M r Keating's election campaign commitment that Labor would not sell Telstra did not stack up with his past positions.

"Leaving aside Graham Richardson's book, in which he confirmed M r Keating had wanted to sell Telstra, or Telecom as it was previously known, the Prime Minister himself, just 18 months ago, made it abundantly clear he didn't care whether Telstra was government owned or not.

"Asked on the ABC Lateline programme whether it mattered i f Telstra was publicly owned or privately owed, M r Keating replied: 'No/ in essence, no.'

"Now, all o f a sudden, M r Keating regards the Coalition's partial privatisation o f Telstra as 'unconscionable.'

"Labor is running a massive scare campaign on this issue.

"The fact is under the Coalition only one third o f Telstra w ill be privatised, generating revenue to the order o f $7 or $8 billion, and the organisation will remain in majority Australian control.

"We w ill legislate to maintain untimed local phone calls. Telstra w ill still be required to maintain the standard telephone service to all Australians. We will accelerate the upgrading o f exchanges in rural areas and the universal price cap will be retained.

"A more competitive Telstra will in fact be able to more rapidly improve telecommunications facilities in rural and remote areas and be better positioned to lower costs to consumers."

M r Anderson said $1 billion from the partial privatisation o f Telstra would be devoted to the Coalition's perpetual Natural Heritage Trust, which would fund major sustainable agriculture and environment initiatives. All o f the remainder would be used to reduce government debt.

"To use M r Keating's phrase, what would be 'unconscionable' is a Labor Party that refused to support the partial privatisation o f Telstra - especially against the background o f M r Keating's past positions - and thereby denied the nation the opportunity to really develop the community energy that is driving support for the environment and sustainable development.

"Australians can judge for themselves who is really genuine about the future o f our environment," M r Anderson said.

6 February 1996