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Senators express disappointment that they could not debate Telstra legislation.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Thursday 15 September 2005

Senators express disappointment that they could not debate Telstra legislation

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Telstra sale legislation has finally cleared it s biggest hurdle.  

 

The Senate agreed to the full privatisation last night, after the Government repeatedly shut down debate in order to meet its self-imposed timetable. The amended bills will be finally passed through the House of Representatives this morning.  

 

The Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile says the next task is to sell the deal to the people. He's foreshadowed the Nationals will be heavily promoting the $3 billion package for rural telecommunications. 

 

Getting the legislation through has been a political soap opera, and as Louise Yaxley reports, it could be a similar story with some of the Coalition's other big issues, such as industrial relations. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Senate approved the full Telstra sale in an acrimonious atmosphere. 

 

The way the Government exercised its power, by shutting down debate, angered Labor's Stephen Conroy. 

 

STEPHEN CONROY: A travesty of parliamentary democracy. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Greens' Bob Brown fumed. 

 

BOB BROWN: It's a shameful day for the Senate. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: And the Democrats Andrew Bartlett was outraged. 

 

ANDREW BARTLETT: Undoubtedly without precedent, the extraordinary contempt that has been shown by this Government 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Family First Senator Steve Fielding was denied his opportunity to speak. 

 

STEVE FIELDING: Well look, I'm extremely disappointed that I was gagged. That's all I can say. I was gagged from being able to speak. 

 

People in Victoria have elected me to be able to speak in Parliament, and today I was gagged. And I think Australian families would've liked to have heard what I wanted to say. I've been given no explanation. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Government doesn't need Senator Fielding's support, as long as it can coax and cajole the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce. He had wobbled and wavered, but in the end, he simply voted yes. 

 

But Senator Joyce wasn't overjoyed about it, and he criticised the way some of his colleagues celebrated in the Senate Chamber when the bill went through. 

 

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that's a bit childish. I don't think it's something to be punching the air about. I think it's something that even myself, you know, I'm 65 per cent happy about it. You can't be 100 per cent happy about it.  

 

You've always got, you've always got you know, a feeling in the back of your head that maybe there's… there could be problems in the future. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Barnaby Joyce's critics say agreeing to sell Telstra can badly damage the Nationals.  

 

The Party leader and Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile says it's now vital to explain that there will be tough regulations when Telstra's privatised, and to promote the $3 billion package for regional telecommunications. 

 

MARK VAILE: Selling the message is very, very important so that people understand that we are doing some significant things in terms of our commitment to investment in regional telecommunications, but not only next year and the year after, but into the future. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: There were Coalition celebrations into the night to mark the Government finally winning permission to sell Telstra.  

 

But other cherished goals look like being equally challenging. Just minutes after the Telstra sale Barnaby Joyce was flagging his next battles with his own side of politics, on industrial relations and voluntary student unionism. 

 

BARNABY JOYCE: Obviously, you know, we move on to the next issue now and it's possibly IR or VSU, and try and see what we can do with that. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce ending that report from Louise Yaxley.