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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Page: 72

Mr BEAZLEY (2:14 PM) —That is really strange. Let me go to another quote. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer to his interview on Sky News yesterday. Does he recollect this?

JOHN GATFIELD: ... in parliament today he—

the opposition—

asked you to guarantee parity of services for country people when Telstra is sold. You wouldn’t give a guarantee because you can’t.

MARK VAILE: Of course we can.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister do today what he refused to do yesterday and give a guarantee to the parliament for parity of services between regional Australia and the capital cities—yes or no? If he will, will the Deputy Prime Minister put laws in place to guarantee parity of services?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —The answer that the Labor Party has to all these questions is not to sell and to keep the status quo—the status quo that has delivered the present circumstances. At least we have taken a decision that is going to deliver the investment of $3.1 billion—$1.1 billion over the next four years into services into regional Australia to roll out that platform. It is a blend not just of investing in telecommunications services and providing the funding to invest in that, which is something that the Labor Party has never done—

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was: will he give a guarantee? He did it on television last night. I have asked him: will he give a guarantee on parity of services? It is a very simple question.

The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.

Mr VAILE —I am answering the Leader of the Opposition’s question in outlining what the government is doing in this area, which is being proactive in terms of rolling out the ability to get internet services and mobile telephone services throughout regional Australia. It is a blend of funding proposals, it is a blend of regulation and it is a blend of increased competition. Nothing that the ALP has offered on this in this debate gives any indication of what it would do to ensure those services.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order that goes to relevance. He is directly attacking us, but what he will not do is give a guarantee, and that was the specific question.

The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.

Mr VAILE —The Labor Party does not want to hear what the government is doing in a positive fashion because it has no alternative answer. One of the most important components of the package of measures announced by the government yesterday is the Telstra retail price controls, which will commence on 1 January 2006. The price controls will ensure parity in local call prices offered to regional and metropolitan consumers. Service providers will be required to maintain a cap on local calls, prevent further large increases in line rentals and encourage decreases in call charges. New price controls maintain a cap on new connections, meaning that they cannot rise by more than inflation. That is the undertaking that we have given in the package that we have announced.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance once again. He rabbits on, but we want that guarantee and it is not coming—a simple guarantee. Give an answer to that—yes or no.

The SPEAKER —Has the Deputy Prime Minister completed his answer?

Mr Vaile —Yes.