Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Telecommunications union warns a competitor to Telecom would disadvantage domestic consumers but acknowledges a problem exists with Aussat

PAUL MURPHY: On the line, now, is Mick Musumeci, who is the Federal Secretary of the Australian Telecommunications Employees' Association, and he's talking to Matt Peacock.

MATT PEACOCK: Mr Musumeci, what do you make of all that? In either case, it looks like your union position is going to lose out. There's going to be some kind of competitor to Telecom in the basic network.

MICK MUSUMECI: Matt, I don't think it's a matter of the union losing out. If there is competition in the network, then the domestic customer is going to lose out. We have just gone through a situation that I've referred to as a holy war; there is an enthusiasm for this new religion of deregulation and competition; that few, if any, are asking whether there is even a problem in the Australian telecommunications industry which needs to be addressed.

MATT PEACOCK: I might get to that in a minute, but basically you've lost already, haven't you - I mean, if you're own management has said they want it?

MICK MUSUMECI: Well, I think our own management has been less than useful, quite frankly, and less than helpful in a situation where they have put on the agenda a competing network. My members are very concerned about that proposition. Particularly over at least a decade, Telecom has been telling them that they will fight to the death in the network, and then, in one report to the Government, they have given that away.

You're right. That hasn't been helpful, but that doesn't matter. We believe that the overseas experience is overwhelming, that if there is competition in the network, then the domestic customers' bills will rise in the order of 30 to 40 per cent. And I heard some of what Roger Price has said, and I think it is very important that the Labor Party recognise what they are about to do, because in the United States, ATT, a very big company, a very big, international company, lost 30 per cent of its revenue in the STD network. Now, one would have to suppose that that is possible, at least, in the Australian environment.

MATT PEACOCK: What can you do about this? It looks like the decision is going to be made during the Budget. Are you happy with the consultative process that Mr Beazley's arranged with the party branches?

MICK MUSUMECI: I hope that is not the case. Now, last Friday in Sydney, the policy committee met, and I think they came up with a procedure which will be helpful for all concerned, including the Government. Now, I hope that those procedures are adhered to.

MATT PEACOCK: But they'll be irrelevant, won't they, if the decision is made in the Budget?

MICK MUSUMECI: Well, obviously. I mean, if the decision is made in the Budget, and the party is still talking about where they should be going on telecommunications in September, it's a little less than useful. But I would hope that the Government would honour the procedure because, although I'm not speaking on behalf of the party, I think that the procedures that were outlined last week, as a result of the meeting on Friday, will perhaps save us from an internal dispute within the Australian Labor Party.

MATT PEACOCK: A very brief final question - just one concession from you. It looks like - all away across the board, everybody agrees that Aussat's got to be privatised, if only to get the debt out of our hair and into somebody else's. Would you agree with some form of privatisation?

MICK MUSUMECI: Well, I think there is a problem with Aussat, obviously, and we told them 10 years ago, and that's in excess of a billion dollars by the end of 1992.

MATT PEACOCK: But just quickly.

MICK MUSUMECI: I think it's important to give them some equity and it may be important, provided it is substantial Australian equity, then perhaps we could look at what they're doing. But that's not the only issue, Matt. The issue is: what are they going to do?

MATT PEACOCK: Thanks very much for talking to us, Mr Musumeci.