Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26158


Mr HORNE (4:28 PM) —There's nothing quite as enlightening as a typically arrogant member of the government coming in here and standing up and telling us what we need to understand. He has the audacity to tell us what we need to understand. What I understand from the proposal before the chair is that we should not be selling the remainder of Telstra. Listening to your speech, Comrade, I did not hear one bit of that. All I heard was a lecture on debt, a lecture to a nation where household debt has doubled in the last five years. If your government is proud of that, use it in one of your advertising campaigns when you go to the election. Say to the people of Australia, `You owe twice as much now as when Howard and Costello started running this country in 1996,' because that is exactly what happened.

Let us get back to Telstra. Let us get back to the service that it provides—and the service that it should provide—and to the service that it used to provide but provides no longer. As a representative of a rural and regional electorate, I am pleased to see that not a single member of the National Party considers this piece of information important enough to come into the House. Let me tell you about some of the things I find happening with Telstra's service, and the time it takes to install a telephone—maybe the member for Eden-Monaro would like to tell us how long some of his constituents have to wait to get a telephone connected. If they have to wait as long as I do, they will be grandparents and they will be worried about the debt their grandchildren will owe before they get the phone on!

Maybe the member for Eden-Monaro would like to tell us about the loss of jobs in rural and regional areas with the partial privatisation of Telstra and the other 16,000 jobs that have to go with further privatisation. Maybe the member for Eden-Monaro will consider that that is important to his electorate. Maybe he can tell us abut the level of service to consumers, to people who live in small communities and who do not have access to mobile telephones and Internet services. Maybe the member for Eden-Monaro can tell us about those things, because the last speaker certainly did not—all he wanted to talk about was debt but what he did not tell us was about how personal debt had ballooned.

I could tell you about a few things that if they were not serious you would laugh about. As I drive around the electorate of Paterson, I can see telephone cables strung along the top of fence lines. We all know what happens when there is an electric storm. Then there are the connection pits, the junction pits, that are open with loops of cable coming out. I do not blame the technicians one bit for that. Everyone knows that they are controlled by the computer in their vehicle that tells them how long they can spend on a job and how long before they have to move on to the next job. Once they connect the cable and the service is available, it is time for them to move on. They can then come back another day or someone else can come back another day and finish it off.

Maybe I can tell you about the people who are given satellite phones that cost exorbitant amounts of money, for which Telstra foots the bill, simply because Telstra cannot connect the cable. In some areas they will wait for up to 12 months, until Telstra have enough jobs for a trench digger to come along and dig the trench so that the cable can go in. So they give everyone in the community a satellite telephone. This is the service that paid a $2.6 billion half-year return to the people who own it. That $2.6 billion works out at $5.2 billion a year and yet the Howard-Costello government have sold half of it and want to sell the other half.

The government talk about guaranteeing service. Well, let me tell you about service. This is a story that I found quite humorous. I had a public meeting in the town of Gloucester about 12 months ago and people there told me about the public telephone on Gloucester Railway Station. They said, `It only costs 30c a call but it doesn't work too often.' They said, `We won't complain; we only pay three-quarters of the price of a phone call but it only works about 75 per cent of the time.' I rang Telstra to tell them about this public phone that did not work and they said, `It doesn't exist—no such telephone exists.' They sent a technician to have a look at it and—surprise, surprise—the people of Gloucester were right; they had a telephone, and I think it has been put straight into a Telstra archive. That is the sort of service we are getting under this government—and it stinks.