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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3028

Senator KNOWLES(3.33 p.m.) —Today I find this debate absolutely breathtaking in its hypocrisy from the point of view that we have an opposition here which has publicly touted, via its leadership, the total sell-off of Telstra. Now, in the opposition ranks, you cannot deny that the leader of the opposition has publicly said that he believes that Telstra will be sold off. From that point, you just go back to the years that the Labor Party were in government and prior to the time when they were saying that to sell the Commonwealth Bank would be just absolutely heresy.

Senator Campbell —`Ben Chifley would turn in his grave,' they said.

Senator KNOWLES —That's right. `Ben Chifley would turn in his grave if the Commonwealth Bank were to be sold off.' That is what the Labor Party said. All I can say is that he must be spinning like a top because you had no respect in the Labor Party for what you had promised in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. You had no respect in the Labor Party at all for what you had promised in relation to Qantas. You had no respect in relation to CSL. There are a whole range of privatisation measures that the Labor Party took while in government and now, in opposition, they are trying to portray that they have not got a policy of the total privatisation of Telstra.

Our policy has been quite clear and unequivocal from day one: that there would be a partial privatisation of Telstra in the bill that is currently before the parliament, a one-third sell-off, and that is all. The minister has repeated that time and time again. Isn't it interesting that there is no mention of the quote of the minister on the same show, the same day, at the same time, when he said and repeated our policy commitment that was in place prior to the election, that `to go any further we would seek a specific electoral mandate'? That is a quote from the same show which quite accidentally, I am sure, is always excluded from any debate that comes from the opposition.

This grizzling, whining, bitching opposition cannot accept the result of 2 March and they will not accept the fact that this is only a partial privatisation that is contained in the legislation that is before the Senate today. There is a report coming down later on today and yet all we have heard is the way in which they do not discuss the bill; they do not discuss what their position is.

Mr Beazley says there are good reasons for keeping Telstra in public ownership but does not see it staying that way forever. Does the Labor Party talk about that? No. Then Mr Beazley says, `There are good reasons to keep Telstra at this point in public ownership and for the foreseeable future.' Not forever? Well, for the foreseeable future, beyond any time scale relevant to you and me.

Now, why don't you come clean? That is your leader. Here you are trying to misrepresent what the minister said repeatedly prior to the election and subsequent to the election, that there would be no further sell-off of Telstra than the one-third that is currently before the parliament without seeking a further electoral mandate. There it is, Senator Collins, in the transcript.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for taking note of answers has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.