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Transcript of doorstop: Melbourne: 5 September 2005: Telstra 's plans to slash services; Government's plans to rush through sale; Government's plans to let Telstra determine the regulatory rule.



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Senator Stephen Conroy Deputy Opposition Leader in the Senate Shadow Minister for Communications and Information Technology

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - MELBOURNE, 5 September 2005

SUBJECT: Telstra 's plans to slash services; Government's plans to rush through sale; Government's plans to let Telstra determine the regulatory rule

SC: It's very disappointing this morning to see that the minister is attempting to rush the bills through parliament. The government is out of control and is abusing its new found powers in the Senate because just this morning we're seeing news reports of Telstra's plans to slash services and cut jobs. At the same time, the government is preparing the ground work to back down in the legislation in its fight with Telstra over regulation by

giving Telstra the power to write their own rules. Clearly, considering the leadership at Telstra, this must be a frightening prospect for all Australians, particularly in regional and rural Australia.

Journalist: Just on your first point, regarding the government rushing the legislation in, Ron Boswell says that the National Party will have plenty of time to look at the bill.

SC: Well I hope that's right. I mean we'll be moving to try and establish the normal sort of Senate process which upon our estimation would see at least, four or five weeks for the bills to be considered. That's not unusual. It's not an extensive investigation. So we would welcome the fact that the National Party aren't going to fall for this three card trick. And we would welcome the opportunity to examine all of this detailed legislation. I mean what the Minister is talking about doing is tabling a bare bones bill with regulations to come. She wants to have the vote and then supply the details. Well I don't think even Barnaby Joyce will fall for that.

Journalist: With regards to the stories today, have you been able to confirm those details that Telstra is planning to substantially reduce the number of products it's offering?

SC: Well we're calling on Telstra to clarify exactly what it is that they're proposing. This is very disturbing. All Australians know that once Telstra is fully privatised, its going to begin to desert the bush, just like the banks did. It's going to desert the suburbs, just like the banks did. And it's going to start cutting jobs in areas. I mean Sol Trujillo put up his hand three weeks ago and said "I have to tell the truth. Telstra have not been providing a world class service to Australians. We've underinvested in our network and we've not provided cutting edge technology." That's the truth of Telstra. That's the truth of what's going on in the debate. And the government's trying to pretend that things are up to

scratch when Mr Trujillo has blown the whistle on this claim.

Journalist: Well Telstra will continue to be regulated by the government post privatisation so how would they get away with that?

SC: Well as you can see from other reports today, the legislation allows enormous latitude for Telstra to write its own rules. This has got to be of enormous concern. This is a company who's claimed that it doesn't want to be providing these services to the bush. It doesn't want to see full equality of service across Australia. We've got to be really

concerned if Telstra are allowed to write the rules. And that's what the legislation seems to be indicating.

Journalist: Do you think that you will be able to have a comprehensive senate committee inquiry set up?

SC: Well we'll be moving to establish a thorough Senate committee. Not a three or six month inquiry, but a comprehensive inquiry to look at the details. We can't vote on this until we see all the details. We're not going to fall for this pig and a poke idea that the Minister puts up just the sale bill and tables the regulations three months later after the vote's gone through. That's not good enough. And if Barnaby Joyce and the National Party fall for that then they deserve to be known as "Back Down Barnaby" for caving in to the Liberal Party.