Privatisation of Telstra to face the Senate

The sale of Telstra is back on the agenda as the Commonwealth Government attempts to gain support for the privatisation of the remaining 50.1 per cent of the telco.

The bill has passed through the House of Representatives, but the government may still face a hurdle in the Senate, where Labor and the minor parties oppose the sale. For the bill to pass, the government needs the support of the four independent senators.

As previously reported in ARN, the government has said Telstra will not be fully privatised until it is satisfied that its rural and regional services are adequate.

It appears the day of adequate services has arrived. The lower house overwhelmingly passed the bill on August 21, with abstentions from rebel National Party MP, Kay Hull, and Liberal MP, Alby Schultz.

Hull told parliament that she wanted the Australian people to make their views known, and the legislation should not be acted upon until that time.

“[The bill] will go a long way to securing improved services and future-proofing the organisation against moves by future governments, and in particular the Labor Party, to downgrade services in country Australia as [it] did with the banks,” she said.

The opposition has claimed that privatisation of the telco would mean increases in line rental fees and a deterioration of the network.

Shadow minister for communications, Lindsay Tanner, claims a privately-owned Telstra would be a private monopoly that was too powerful for any government to effectively regulate.

“It would neglect the interests of country Australians and focus more on the lucrative markets in the big cities, just like the banks,” he said. “Telstra would charge whatever it could get away with.”

However, in more political mud-throwing, a spokesperson for the department of communications reminded the shadow minister that a Labor government was responsible for the privatisation of the Commonwealth bank.

“The privatisation of Telstra cannot be compared to the banks,” he said.

Regulation of the telco was already in place, adding that Telstra’s fee increases are in accordance with government and ACCC regulation.

“Telstra has to abide by government legislation, guidelines and a customer service guarantee,” the spokesperson said.

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