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Tuesday, 15 August 2006
Page: 38

Senator BERNARDI (3:17 PM) —We are talking about having a bath here. I think that Senator Sherry should take a cold shower or, at the very least, wash his mouth out with soap. To stand up and discuss the relevance of this government’s decision and commitment to sell Telstra as being in the best interests of the Australian people and also in the best interests of the company and then to harangue us because they have stopped us from doing it is appalling, quite frankly. They have made a $50 billion decision. It has cost the Australian taxpayers, the men and women of Australia, over $50 billion because they would not allow us sell Telstra completely in the second tranche. It is a part of the socialist unrepresentative mantra that the Labor Party have been spewing for 10 years now and it is quite offensive.

We hear Senator Sherry talking about majority ownership by government. This is the same bloke who formulated a plan with George Campbell in January 2004 to ensure that no faction had majority control of the Australian Labor Party. He is absolutely opposed to anyone having majority control—except the government and particularly if it is a Labor government. Then they are happy to have control. But as a party and as a government we are committed to releasing these shares and putting Telstra into private ownership so that the Australian government can proceed and fund its superannuation liabilities on an ongoing basis.

We have been shown again today the idiotic policy of the Labor Party. They have put forward the absurd proposition that the problem lies in the regulation. We have been on the record time and time again saying that it is inappropriate for any government to be a major shareholder in an organisation like Telstra as well as being on the regulatory board determining the regulations. It is a preposterous proposition that we should be expected to handle both obligations in a sufficiently adequate manner. It is like putting the unions in charge of the Labor Party. You see the result—

Senator Ferris —They are!

Senator BERNARDI —They are in charge of the Labor Party. That is right, Senator Ferris. Isn’t that absurd? Isn’t it preposterous? It is absolutely dumb. But let us go back through a bit of history, because I think that history is a very important thing for us to consider in this capacity. The Labor Party, who now oppose privatisation by any means, in July 1991 were happy to release 30 per cent of the Commonwealth Bank to the public. In 1992 ‘Corporate Kim’ Beazley corporatised Telstra, obviously in preparation for sale. But Corporate Kim did not quite get his way at the time. In 1993 they decided to hive off a bit of the national airline and sell 25 per cent of Qantas, and that is exactly what they did. They sold it to the public.

Then they kept going. In July 1995 they said: ‘Hang on, we cannot be in charge of a commercial airline. Let us get rid of the remaining 75 per cent,’ and they did. Then, because they had not had enough of a good thing, they planned to privatise the remainder of the Commonwealth Bank. And all the time they had Corporate Kim corporatising Telstra ready for a sale. What happened? The people of Australia saw through their union-controlled mantra and they said no, enough is enough. It is time to put some decent people in charge of the Treasury. It is time to remove the Beazley black hole. It is time to ensure that unemployment falls. It is time to ensure that the people of Australia have access to decent interest rates. It is time that they had access to jobs and it is time that Australia prospered.

Accordingly, they elected a coalition government, and it has governed very well. Part of its consistent policy—and, Senator George Campbell, you would understand this—has been to bring about the full privatisation of Telstra. You have opposed this at every election and we continue to get elected on it. People are still happy to see us come back into government because they know it is in their best interests. We are trying to fully fund our superannuation liabilities, a legacy of the mismanagement of the Labor Party in the decade of mismanagement when people went broke and the government had a $96 billion black hole. Now you have still got the same people—Corporate Kim and all those other blokes—in charge of the Labor Party. They are still there and the socialist union movement is pulling all their strings. If Telstra is such a bad investment, explain to me why the industry super funds all have shareholdings in Telstra. Explain to me why the National Bank, Citibank, Westpac Custodian Bank and JP Morgan are all shareholders. (Time expired)