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Monday, 26 March 2001
Page: 25575

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that Telstra's wholly owned subsidiary, NDC—Network Design and Construction Ltd—builds telecommunications networks in rural and regional Australia? Deputy Prime Minister, do you support the current proposal to fully privatise NDC?

Mr McGAURAN (Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation) —Thank you, Mr Speaker; I am very happy to answer this question. In regard to media speculation, which the honourable member has of course whipped up to his best political opportunist standards, that will result from a review. I am informed by Telstra that no decisions have been made on any of these matters, including staffing levels, and that, to preserve commercial confidentiality, Telstra does not comment about the substance of the ongoing transactions. The House might be informed, unlike the member for Perth, of the facts of the situation: in November last year NDC reduced its—

Mr Stephen Smith —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question was very simple: does the National Party support the privatisation of NDC or not?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Perth will resume his seat.

Mr McGAURAN —To finish the point, last November NDC reduced its staff base from around 6,300 people to 5,900 nationally. All but 12 of the 400 staff affected were voluntary redundancies and were not forced lay-offs. At the risk of stating the obvious—but it is necessary for the honourable member—while Telstra is partially owned, it is an independent corporation and its board and management are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation. So I would like to know from the member for Perth whether he would intervene. He never did when in government. I would like to know whether or not he would intervene. He makes a song and dance about decisions that the board has to make in a very competitive environment, which this government fostered. We would like to know whether or not he would intervene. He is bluffing, and he knows it.