[LINK] Costello gets wires crossed on Telstra
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 09:55:43 +1100
Isn't the Liberal party's slogan, Keep Australia in Safe Hands?
So why do they want to sell so many bits of it off?
Costello gets wires crossed on Telstra
Michelle Gilchrist, Scott Emerson and Sid Marris
Distress within the Coalition over Telstra spilled into the open yesterday
as Peter Costello appeared to contradict Coalition policy and National
Party MP De-Anne Kelly accused the Treasurer of "pretending" the sale of
Telstra was a certainty.
Queensland National Party senator Ron Boswell, under threat from One
Nation's Pauline Hanson, also conceded Mr Costello's statement last week
outlining plans to sell the 50.1 per cent of Telstra still in public
ownership from 2003 - to raise $35.2 billion - could hurt his party in the
bush. However, National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister John
Anderson dismissed prospects of an early sale, saying rural
telecommunications would not begin to show improvement - a Coalition
precondition on any further Telstra privatisation - for at least a year.
"The general observations I've made is that over the next 12 months you'll
have vastly improved CDMA (code division multiple access) coverage," Mr
Anderson said. "I think the internet upgrades and, frankly, some of the
reliability indicators may take a little longer." The Prime Minister
insisted last night the presumption of a sale in the budget papers was not
an issue because not selling the stake "would make little difference to the
budget figures" - although the Treasurer argued last week that stopping the
sale would cost money. Mr Costello yesterday appeared to drop another
bombshell by apparently promising a second inquiry into rural service
standards before any further Telstra sale.
Asked by Sydney radio host John Laws who decided when services were
efficient, Mr Costello replied: "I think we put in place a process to
actually have an inquiry and to put performance standards and we'll have an
objective evaluation of that." But Mr Costello's office later said he was
referring to last year's Besley inquiry - not proposing another.
Labor leader Kim Beazley immediately accused Mr Costello of splitting from
Mr Howard, who has consistently opposed any new inquiry.
The Coalition has promised no more of Telstra will be sold until services
improve, but has failed to specify how improvements will be measured.
The most likely measure is quarterly surveys by the Australian
Communications Authority. These surveys have been showing a consistent
improvement by Telstra in delivering new installations and repairs.
The Nationals' Mrs Kelly said a Telstra sale was hypothetical - no matter
what the Liberal Party said. "We have made our position quite clear and,
frankly, to have someone from another political party galloping around
pretending (a further sale) is a fait accompli, when it is nothing of the
sort, is not helpful," Mrs Kelly said.
The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is
generally employed only by small children and large nations.