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Monday, 4 June 2001
Page: 27168

Mr HORNE (4:45 PM) —I thank the member for Boothby for bringing this topic forward for debate in the House. Before I raise a few points on this matter, I would like to share with the member and this House an old saying of my grandmother: `If you want to blow your own trumpet, make sure you have the right sheet of music in front of you.'

I have no doubt as to why the member for Boothby raised these matters in the House, and I hope he will not mind if I do not share his enthusiasm. It is not that I do not support technology changes, technology advances. But I do represent a regional seat. I represent a region where the whole point is that technology is not reaching us all. I notice in the member's motion he talks about Canberra, Darwin, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane and Adelaide—hardly the whole of Australia. I would just like to point out to the member for Boothby that all of Australia want to be included, all of Australia want to be involved. It is certainly not happening. I have no doubt why the National Party members opposite did not put up their hands to participate in this debate.

This debate highlights the inequality of services to the people of Australia. That is one of the big debates that is going to occur in the coming election. We do not have services out there. I represent one of the electorates where whole communities do not have a cellular phone simply because they do not have a service. There is no point in owning a cellular phone, because you do not have access to a service. They have been told by Telstra and by the government that, if they want to put in an application, that community has to come up with $10,000 to contribute before they get the service. The people who reside in the areas that have been identified by the member for Boothby have the choice of two, three or even more services, whereas many people in rural and regional Australia do not even have one.

We talk about competition policy. People in many of the areas I represent cannot be competitive because they do not have access to the service. You can talk about the Internet, but many people do not have access to that either, because the server is so slow and costly. They cannot be competitive. What we are finding is that businesses in rural areas are simply not being competitive with their city cousins. It is one thing to talk about the old economy and the new economy. Why don't we talk about the responsible economy? That is what it should be. You can take the pride that Australia has evolved into the new economy. If you want to talk about the last three months, if that is representative of what a new economy is going to deliver to Australia, I would suggest that the new economy is going to deliver a number of headaches—with HIH, One.Tel and so on. We may talk about the losses that One.Tel produces for the big players. This is a government that prides itself on the new economy and the fact that so many people out there in the new economy in Australia are investors in shares. How often do we hear the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation get up here and remind this House and the people of Australia that we have the biggest percentage of shareholders of any economy in the world? I would suggest that the HIH fiasco and the One.Tel fiasco are not good news to small investors. It may simply be monopoly money to the Packer and Murdoch empires but to the people out there who have invested $5,000 and $10,000 because they thought that would be good for their retirement it is a disaster. They wanted to be independent retirees, but it puts them much further behind. That is quite tragic.

I would also like to mention growth. The honourable member quoted from Gruen and Stevens. The point is this. The growth in our economy in the nineties was mainly due to growth in wholesale trade, retail trade and construction. They were the three factors that produced abnormally high growth. Are they sustainable? I think not. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.