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Tuesday, 22 June 1999
Page: 6983


Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Can the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House if ordinary telephone subscribers in regional and remote Australia will see any benefit from the sale of a further 16.6 per cent of Telstra?

Opposition members interjecting


Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —That's right; you are not getting it in your electorate.


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dawson has the call and will address her remarks through the chair.


Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Are subscribers in Dawson and other regional electorates receiving better telephone and communication services as a result of this government's—

Mr Rudd interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Griffith. The member for Dawson will commence her question again.


Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Ms Hoare interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Charlton is warned.


Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Can the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House if ordinary telephone subscribers in regional and remote Australia will see any benefit from the sale of a further 16.6 per cent of Telstra? Are subscribers in Dawson and other regional electorates receiving better telephone and communication services as a result of this government's policies compared with the previous Labor administration?


Mr TIM FISCHER —I am delighted to answer the question from the member for Dawson and say yes and yes. In fact, this is one of those splendid days to be in government. Not only do we have Labor on the run—you can never match what we are doing for country Australia with this social bonus—but we have some distant static from state politicians on both sides of politics who could only wish they could deliver the list we are now delivering for country Australia.

Not only are we giving $150 million for untimed local calls in isolated areas but we are giving an additional $20 million to meet the special communication requirements of remote and isolated islands such as in the electorate of Dawson, the Northern Territory and elsewhere. Not only are we giving $70 million to the transaction centres to be administered through Minister John Anderson and Minister Macdonald to places like Urana and beyond, but we are giving $36 million to facilitate Internet access and electronic commerce for people in rural and remote areas. We are also giving $25 million referred to by the Prime Minister to the corridors of some of our busiest highways as well as South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

This is why the hypocrisy on this matter should now be fully exposed. The member for Dobell produced legislation in this place—let me remind both sides of the House; this is an honest representation of the legislation—that at midnight on 31 December of this year the analog system would be junked with no practical alternative for country Australia. He is the guilty person in setting up the bush for a disaster on mobile telephones. That is the truth of the matter.


Mr Lee —Savaged by a dead sheep.


Mr TIM FISCHER —The shame of it is that you were an accolade of Keating the reformer.


Mr Stephen Smith —`Accolade'!


Mr TIM FISCHER —The member for Perth likewise. There you were in the Senate last night trying to put about some populism when you know in your heart that that is ancient socialism which will deny you government benches for life. I am glad I stun the Labor Party because their decision—

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Mr Griffin interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Bruce! The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.


Mr TIM FISCHER —What the coalition government has done as an alternative to junking analog is provide for the spectrum to allow Telstra to roll out the CDMA, an affordable Rolls Royce mobile telephone system—something you are opposed to.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr TIM FISCHER —Well, let that be on the record. We have also provided for the filling in of black spots along the various corridors of critical highways, and for that to be further extended in a practical way so that, come midnight on 31 December, we will have done something additional—and that is, allow for flexibility with the shut down date for analog. In other words, we were determined to see that country Australia was not left behind with the junking of analog. Yes, we support the transfer to the digital systems of GSM digital and CDMA digital but at a time which has practical benefit for all of country Australia. We stand up for our constituents. I am just delighted with the outcome on Telstra.

Mr Griffin interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Bruce.


Mr TIM FISCHER —My predecessors, state and federal, within my party and in other leadership positions in the political fabric of this country can only wish they have such a list as the list the coalition government presents to the people today on telecommunications.