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Budget; Telstra; Australian Solar Timbers – Interview with Graham Robinson, ABC Radio
May 22, 2002
United Medical Protection; ABC
May 24, 2002
Budget; Telstra; Australian Solar Timbers – Interview with Graham Robinson, ABC Radio
May 22, 2002
United Medical Protection; ABC
May 24, 2002

Telstra, Coalition


Doorstop Interview

Thursday, 23 May 2002

12.35 pm



SUBJECTS: Telstra, Coalition


The Labor Party has released its policy on Telstra today and it makes very

interesting reading. The first thing that they say is that “the status

quo is insufficient”, “the status quo is insufficient”. The Labor

Party agrees with what I have been saying now for quite some time, that you

can not have a Telstra which is half pregnant, which is 50.1 per cent Government

owned and 49.9 per cent private owned. It has got to be one or the other, you

have either got to nationalise it and have a Government owned telecommunications

company, or a privately owned one. And the interesting thing is, although the

Labor Party has been pretending up until now that you could keep Telstra the

way it is, Mr Tanner says “the status quo is insufficient”. Now, what

he proposes to do is to asset strip Telstra. And if I were one of the 2 million

shareholders that have shares in Telstra today I would be very, very concerned

about what the Labor Party is planning. Telstra shareholders bought shares in

a full service company and the Labor Party says that if they get elected they

will have an asset strip operation so that whatever your shares were in, after

the Labor Party finishes with it, it could be a very, very different operation.

But the one thing that the Labor Party agrees with us on, is, that the current

arrangements are insufficient, you have got to go one way or the other. Only

the Government has a clear idea of where to go in relation to this, which is,

to fix regional services, bring standards up to par in the bush and to offer

additional shareholding to the Australian public.


And wouldn’t that be easier to achieve if it was actually one conservative

party, a merged Liberal and National Party?


Well, in order to do that you have got to get the vote through the Senate and

it would only be easy to achieve if the Labor Party gives up the pretence that

the current arrangements are maintainable. Now, Lindsay Tanner has belled the

cat. He says it’s insufficient, the current arrangements are insufficient. So,

so Mr Crean ought to give away the pretence. He has been trying to maintain

this pretence that Telstra can stay half pregnant. It can’t. Lindsay Tanner

says it can’t, give away the pretence, support the Government.


What assets do you think they might be referring to?


Well, what they say, they are going to strip out the mobile phone business

out of Telstra. They can strip out some of the television businesses out of

Telstra. And if you bought a share in Telstra as a full service business, you

bought a share in those businesses as well. Now they are going to strip them

out from underneath 2 million Australian shareholders. So, for 2 million Australian

shareholders better hope that the Labor Party never gets elected in this country.


What are your thoughts on Mr Minchin’s idea of a merger?


Well, the statements that were made were not representing the Prime Minister’s

view, and I think Senator Minchin has acknowledged that. And I do not think

this is something that should be discussed in public forums. If people have

views they should be discussed between the members of the two Parties. And I

would urge that it be kept within the forums of the Parties rather than brought

out for fully fledged public discussions.


Is it an issue that you have a strong view on?


It is not a view, no, it is not an issue that I have a strong view on. My view

is that this is a matter for the National Party, in particular, to consider

and I would not advise the National Party on it. It is up to the National Party

and its leadership. It is a matter for them and I certainly won’t be trying

to direct them in any way whatsoever on the issue.


Was Senator Minchin ill-advised to raise this?


Well, put it this way, he did not actually raise it when he gave his speech

because he acknowledged that this was not the proper forum. It is a free country,

people are entitled to their views, but I would just urge that if people have

views that they discuss it between members of the Liberal Party and the National

Party in private forums, rather than have a public debate.


Would such a move drag the Nationals to the right, do you think?


I don’t think the National Party would see itself as a left-wing political

operation. I don’t think it feels the need to be dragged to the right, and I

think it sees itself squarely in touch with conservative opinion.


Was it a bit self-indulgent of Senator Minchin to bring it up under those circumstances,

out of the blue, without talking about it first with the Prime Minister?


Well, I think this is something that if, if people want to discuss it, it should

be discussed with the leadership of the National Party in private forums, and

if the National Party is not interested, that’s it. I do not see any point in

having a, this (inaudible) large on the public stage. It is a matter for the

two Parties concerned.