Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Telstra, Coalition

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview

Thursday, 23 May 2002
12.35 pm

Adelaide

 

SUBJECTS: Telstra, Coalition

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

And wouldn't that be easier to achieve if it was actually one conservative party, a merged Liberal and National Party?

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

What assets do you think they might be referring to?

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

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

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

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

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

Was Senator Minchin ill-advised to raise this?

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

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

TREASURER:

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.

JOURNALIST:

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?

TREASURER:

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.

Thanks.

23 May 2002

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