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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 90

Senator CONROY (3:05 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Senator Coonan) to questions without notice asked by Senators Conroy and Lundy today relating to Telstra.

The shemozzle between the National Party and the Liberal Party continued today in the Senate, evidenced by Senator Brandis sitting in a corner with Senator Boswell and pointing his finger at him—still fighting about who gave them the majority in the Senate. Was it Senator elect Barnaby Joyce? You can see that, in the back corner, the fight is still on. It is not surprising at all to see Senator Brandis using his usual standover tactics. Senator Brandis is like the donkey in Shrek, jumping up and down shouting, `Pick me, pick me,' but he knows the Prime Minister is never going to take any notice of him. He can jump up and down all he wants. Senator Brandis is currently helping the police with their investigations into the Mount Morgan branch of the Liberal Party. Stand up there, Senator Brandis and Senator Boswell. Senator Brandis has been involved again in yet another shonky membership exercise in the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party, and the police have been called in to investigate. We hope that someone like Senator Brandis—

Senator Hill —I rise on a point of order. That is a serious reflection upon an honourable senator and should be withdrawn.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Conroy, I ask you to withdraw that remark.

Senator CONROY —I withdraw at your asking, Mr Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator Conroy.

Senator CONROY —What is at stake here is that the National Party have set up their think tank. I know that Senator Macdonald nearly choked at the concept of a National Party think tank. He nearly choked in the chamber and he was lucky to have Senator Kemp patting him on the back to keep the oxygen flowing. What we have is the National Party going through the charade of pretending to rural and regional Australians that they will do the right thing by them over the Telstra vote. It is just a charade because we know that, in the end, the agrarian socialists in the National Party will roll over. It will be back to the old `rollover Ron Boswell' when he votes for Telstra. He will not stand up to the Liberals. He will not stand up to John Howard. He will not stand up to Nick Minchin and Peter Costello. He will just roll over. He will just get a few baubles—it will be the beads and blankets for rural and regional Australians. Beads and blankets will be all they get because Senator Boswell is the master of walking both sides of the street.

In the city what do we have? We have Senator Ferris, we have Senator Minchin and we have the Prime Minister walking into boardrooms saying, `We'll sell Telstra; it's up to scratch.' Yet the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Anderson, and the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Senator Boswell, are walking around the streets—and around the streets of Benalla, Senator McGauran—all over country and in regional Australia saying, `Oh, no, we'll get it up to scratch. Don't you worry. We won't sell it until service standards are up to scratch.' But we know what will happen: `rollover Ron' will be true to form. Just as he was stood over by Senator Brandis earlier today, he will be stood over again. `We want to upgrade the USO,' said the Deputy Prime Minister. But the Deputy Prime Minister, within three weeks of the election campaign, admitted to the failure of the government's policies in this area.

He said that the USOs had gone `soggy'. He admitted that Telstra had been using these methods to get out of their community service obligations. They have gone `soggy' 100 times in the last couple of months. But we are in the middle of a drought and Telstra are using a soggy excuse. The Deputy Prime Minister has rung the bell. The person who conducted the inquiry on behalf of the coalition, Mr Estens, described services in rural and regional Australia as a shemozzle. This will be the last chance for the National Party. Is it going to stand up for regional and rural Australians? Or is it going to continue its inexorable slide into irrelevance? We know what Senator Brandis wants. We know he was the claimed mastermind behind that letter from the Prime Minister. He is trying to exterminate you. I have to tell you that this is a suicide note that you are being asked to sign for the National Party, because just as you kept losing seats in this election, just as you lost another seat and you lost a minister, you are sliding into oblivion. This is the last chance for the National Party. (Time expired)