Year of the Outback tour; Telstra

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Spot Mobile Coverage Good News for Travellers
August 15, 2002
Address to the Australian Industry Group Annual Dinner
August 19, 2002

Year of the Outback tour; Telstra


Interview with Natalie Barr and Chris Reason
Network 7, Sunrise
Friday, 16 August 2002
7.15 am


SUBJECTS: Year of the Outback tour; Telstra.


Well now to central Queensland where Peter Costello is on his outback odyssey.

Some have labelled it the “Long Road to the Lodge”.


Let’s see what the man himself calls it. Peter Costello, good morning and welcome

to Sunrise.


Great to be with you.


Now we have been trying to work out whether this trip, this hitting the outback

tour is about selling Telstra or selling Peter Costello. Which one would you



Well, it is the Year of the Outback. And at the beginning of the year I was

asked to be an Ambassador for the Outback and celebrations are coming to a crescendo

here in Roma today with the Great Cattle Sale. And we have driven about 800

km down the road from Longreach to Roma, stopping at places along the way. And

I must say it has been a terrific opportunity for me and to meet the local communities,

and all roads are leading to Roma today for the Great Cattle Sale.


Mr Costello, you are no doubt aware, some political observers are saying this

is a chance for you to broaden your image. Do you think it needs broadening?


Oh, it is a chance for me to get out into western Queensland and to see a bit

of Australia that I do not get to visit that often. And also to talk to people

about the issues that are on their minds out here and the fate of the rural

industries which are so important to the region. So, for me it is a great broadening

experience. I think also for people out here it is great to see a Treasurer.

I do not think too many Treasurers come down the road from Longreach to Roma.

We met a drover along the way, and I do not know if we were more surprised to

see him or he was more surprised to see us. As he was stringing fourteen hundred

head of cattle along, twenty cameramen and journalists jumped out of a bus.


And you’re stringing your cattle along, yes. But tell me, I mean you say it

is about getting the views of the people from out there. I mean, imagine one

of the things they are concerned with is Telstra and its sale. We know that

Richard Alston is going to be announcing today in Brisbane an inquiry into the

standard of services in the bush. What can you tell us about that?


Well, we have had an inquiry to see what the level of services in the bush

were and it reported that they need to be improved. We have set aside a lot

of money to do that. And in fact I announced yesterday a new contract from Telstra

of about $20 million to improve spot coverage for mobile phones on highways

including the highways out here in western Queensland. Having done that, now

is the time to have a second inquiry to see how services have improved and to

assess whether or not they have reached the benchmarks. And Richard Alston will

be announcing that inquiry to look at these issues, and to measure the improvements

that have been occurring and the way in which the money has actually been able

to secure better services, and to assess whether or not the services are up

to the standard that we want in rural and regional Australia.


Mr Costello, given that Dick Estons is a mate, I think, of John Anderson’s

is this a fait accompli, will there be a positive result anyway?


Oh, the person that has been speculated in the press, and I do not know if

it has been announced yet, somebody who is a very respected businessman in Australia,

and I think can be trusted to do an independent report. And that is what we

want. There has been a lot of money which came out of the second part of the

Telstra sale to improve services in the bush, not only with mobile phone coverage

but we have had a program called Networking the Nation to improve internet access

and even in some of the small towns of say 300 people that I have been visiting,

you can see the fruits of that where there are now internet access and people

have access to Rural Transaction Centres to come in and to pay all of their

bills on line, and to access Commonwealth Government services and it is a great

credit to the local member Bruce Scott but also to the programs which came out

of the second part of Telstra.