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Farmers see through Howard hoodwink on Telstra.

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Senator Kerry O’Brien Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Lindsay Tanner MP Shadow Minister for Communications

21 July 2003


Australian farmers have seen right through the Howard Government’s sham plan to deliver improved rural telecommunications through the full sale of Telstra.

Mal Peters, President of the powerful NSW Farmers’ Association, today warned his members not to be "hoodwinked" into believing that rural telecommunications would be ‘future proofed’ if the full privatisation of Telstra proceeds.

Mr Peters told the NSW Farmers’ Association annual conference:

We cannot afford to compromise on this ... I, for one, am yet to be convinced that the complete sale of Telstra will do anything but reduce the long-term minimum of telecommunications services available in the bush.

Farmers do not want rural telecommunications to suffer, and are concerned that the chasm between services in the country and the city will widen if the Howard Government gets its way on Telstra.

Mr Peters also told the conference that the willingness of farmers to adopt new technologies has delivered huge productivity gains, allowing them to maintain international competitiveness in the face of highly subsidised competition.

The Howard Government has never known, and the National Party has forgotten, that many farmers need more than a telephone to stay in touch - they rely on the internet to access market data, target new markets and learn new methods of farming.

The once great National Party has well and truly abandoned the very people it claims to represent.

Only Labor is prepared to stand up for rural Australia and oppose the full privatisation of Telstra.

For comment: Kerry O’Brien 0419 007 780 Jack Lake 0427 773 842