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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4168

Senator ALSTON(9.16) —Our approach to this has been that it is a desirable position to reach ultimately, but it is responsible to know what it will cost. I do not see how we are going to be in a position to know that unless we are supported in the reference to the Senate Standing Committee by either the Government or the Australian Democrats. If the Government simply supports the Democrats' amendment sight unseen, we will never know the cost. That is one of the real problems with Telecom Australia's community service obligations. One simply has to accept that they are somehow benefiting the community in a general sense without really knowing what the amount of the burden is. I would have thought that the Government could achieve its objective in acting responsibly in economic terms, the Democrats' objective and our ultimate objective of seeing this included in the legislation by the Government being prepared to have it costed by that committee. We will all then be in a position to make a sensible judgment about the matter. Otherwise, it seems to me that the Government runs into the sort of fundamental principle that Senator Walsh would be hitting you over the head with, which is agreeing to something without knowing what it is going to cost the Government. Surely, that is a pretty fundamental principle as well. I ask the Government to reconsider on that basis as well, because it can accommodate all the valid concerns in the matter if it first has it costed and then we can proceed to implement it.