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Parliament House, Canberra, Tuesday 18 November 1997, 8.30am: transcript of doorstop interview [Telstra float]


JOURNALIST: How long will it be before the Government considers selling more of Telstra after yesterday's debut on the Stock Exchange?

TREASURER: Well, yesterday was just the most wonderful opportunity for small Australian investors to invest in Telstra to get part of the ownership of the national telecommunications carrier. And we've always said that if the public were interested and there were demand we would be prepared after the next election to look at floating further equity. Now you'd have to say that the public is interested. This has been the most wonderful float and after the next election, after we've consulted the Australian public about our plans, we'd certainly be looking at a further float of equity in relation to Telstra.

JOURNALIST: And have the chances of that been boosted by the success of Telstra's debut?

TREASURER: Well put it this way. Why wouldn't you look at the floating a further share of Telstra. This share has been massively oversubscribed. New investors have come in from all over Australia. Australians now directly own a part of Telstra. Why wouldn't you look at giving Australians the opportunity to own some more. But we've always said if we do do that that wouldn't be until we've consulted the Australian people at the next election. I think the Australian people have really voted with their feet in relation to this. They wanted to be part of Telstra, they are part of Telstra, it was massively oversubscribed, it's been a very successful float.

JOURNALIST: So you are expecting to go to the next election with a policy to sell off more of Telstra?

TREASURER: Well, we've always said that if we were going to sell more, give a bigger share to the Australian public, we'd do it after the next election, after we'd given the Australian people the chance to be consulted in an election. But look at it this way, when the Australian public was consulted on this float they voted overwhelmingly in favour of it.

JOURNALIST: How much more would you like to see sold off?

TREASURER: Well as I said before that's something that won't happen to after the next election and until we've consulted to the Australian people about it. But you see, why would you deny the Australian people the opportunity to own Telstra? Why does Labor say they can't? This is something that's been terribly successful. Something that all Australians have got the opportunity to get into and they've voted with their feet and their chequebook.

JOURNALIST: But the Opposition says that Australians who can't afford to buy shares are going to miss out on the revenue stream that they would have got from Telstra if it had stayed fully in public hands.

TREASURER: The Opposition said Australians weren't entitled to buy part of Telstra. That's what they said. The Opposition said that it would be a bad float. The Opposition was proved wrong. Every Australian got the chance to buy part of Telstra. The float was enormously successful. Here you had a mean-spirited Opposition just hanging around being negative and today there are tens, hundred of thousands of Australians, who are glad that the negativity of Labor didn't win out.