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Thursday, 11 May 2000
Page: 16302

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (2:00 PM) —Treasurer, I refer to your comments on Tuesday during which you said Telstra had delivered, `bad news, very bad news', on future dividend payments. Are you aware of comments today by Telstra's Director of Finance, Mr John Stanhope, who says, `We didn't give Costello bad news at all'? Treasurer, did Telstra deliver very bad news or not?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —First of all, the questioner reads out a false quote. What I said was that the non-taxation revenue as reported in the budget—which included all GBEs, one of which is Telstra, but as I said specifically another is the Reserve Bank dividend—had delivered bad news. The bad news it had delivered, as was apparent from the budget paper, is that dividends from associated entities, which in 1999-2000 were $6½ billion, had fallen 66 per cent. I would have thought that in anybody's language when you take the combined associated entities a fall of 66 per cent was bad news and—

Mr Stephen Smith —The market could read it.

Mr COSTELLO —I thought that would have been pretty obvious even to the shadow minister.

Mr Stephen Smith —The market didn't think it was supercilious.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Perth!

Mr COSTELLO —Although he yells because he says the market might be worried about share prices—

Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer will resume his seat. I have already drawn the member for Perth's attention to what ought to be common courtesy in the House and he has ignored the chair.

Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, although he interjects, in defiance of your directions, in a loud voice, I point this out: the Labor Party apparently is now worried about the share price of Telstra, which I welcome. I thought the Labor Party policy was that there should be no shares in Telstra. I thought that the Labor Party actually believed that Telstra should be a nationalised phone company.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I go to a point of order on relevance. He was asked a question as to whether or not Telstra delivered very bad news. He has attempted to answer the question but he now diverts—

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I call the Treasurer. I will listen closely to his answer. I confess that I was in reasonable conversation with the member for the Northern Territory.

Mr COSTELLO —I was going to finish by saying that if the Labor Party is interested in the price of Telstra, which I hope it is, presumably it will now support the full privatisation of Telstra—because nothing could be better for its share price!

Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer will resume his seat.