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Country voters won't forgive a Telstra double-cross.

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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare


5 March 2004

Country voters won’t forgive a Telstra double-cross

The re-introduction of the full sale of Telstra bill to federal parliament yesterday is a direct challenge to independent and minor party senators to protect the interests of rural Australians, according to Member for Calare Peter Andren.

“The government is ramping up the threat of a double-dissolution if the Senate fails to pass this bill, yet an overwhelming majority of rural Australians have indicated time and time again their absolute rejection of full privatisation,” Mr Andren said.

“The Communications Minister Daryl Williams says the full privatisation is in Australia’s national interest and the interest of Telstra’s 1.8 million shareholders.

“Rural Australians are asking what about the other 18.2 million Australians who represent the taxpayers who own the remaining 50.1% of Telstra in government control?

“The recent controversy over Telstra’s supposed interest in buying the Fairfax newspaper group was engineered by the Prime Minister to boost his argument that any government should not be at risk of controlling a private media outlet.

“The Australian public want Telstra to continue in public ownership and to concentrate on its core business - providing telecommunications services to all Australians on an equitable basis.

“The Minister boasts about the $180 million allocated to rural Australia in response to the regional telecommunications inquiry

“That amount is a joke, considering the massive infrastructure challenges facing Telstra to deliver phone and internet services through an ageing network that cannot deliver even the guaranteed 19.2 kbps.

“Many customers still have to wait a full day to download a virus protection program, while country kids can’t get their homework done and dad can forget accessing the bank statement at night so congested is the demand on some lines. Why should internet access be any different between Cobar and Canberra, or Bathurst and Bletchington ; and why should people have to pay excessive amounts for services others get as a matter of course?

“Congestion, delays, internet speed and access to ISDN and ADSL remain huge problems for rural customers and nowhere do we ever see precise figures on just how much is allocated to rectifying these basic infrastructure shortcomings.

“It is a nonsense to talk about Telstra services being ‘up to scratch’. Rural people are insulted by such rhetoric.

“Most country people also expect their elected members and the Senate to continue to reject this latest attempt to flog off an essential national asset, especially when it delivers such big profits to the taxpayer, not just a minority of privileged private shareholders.

“Any MP, Senator or party that supports this full privatisation legislation can expect to be punished at the next election,” Mr Andren said.

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