Monday October 18, 2021

Beazley Pledges To Never Sell Telstra

July 24, 2001

ALP Telstra Pledge The Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, has embarked upon what the ALP is calling a "Telstra Pledge Tour". Starting last week in Healesville in Melbourne, and this week in Murwillumbah, Gladstone and Townsville in Queensland, the Labor leader has committed a future ALP government to retaining the remaining 50.1% of Telstra in government hands.

Beazley is ostentatiously signing a public pledge not to privatise Telstra and will be requiring all Labor candidates to do the same.

The policy commitment is a clear attempt by the Opposition to put forward policy positions which emphasise the difference between the ALP and the coalition.

The commitment also plays to voters in regional areas which contain a significant number of marginal seats in this year's election, as well as to the nearly one million voters who supported One Nation in 1998, and to those voters concerned about the effects of so-called "economic rationalism". These constituencies will be vital to the outcome of the election.

In a statement, Beazley said:

"The Howard-Anderson Government plans to fully privatise the Australian people's 50.1 percent share of Telstra. This is confirmed in the Government's own 2001 Budget papers.

"Kim Beazley and Labor pledge that, if elected, they will ensure that Telstra remains in majority public ownership.

"Labor believes that by keeping Telstra in majority public hands, services for all Australians will be maintained and improved.

"Commonsense tells you that a fully privatised Telstra will focus on profits, not people, and that services will suffer.

"Over the next few days I will be touring and talking to Australians about Telstra. I am pledging both myself and Labor to retaining Telstra in majority public ownership.

"This is a policy supported by a considerable majority of Australians and by a considerable majority of Telstra's shareholders.

"Many Australians are worried that if Telstra is fully privatised, services will suffer.

"Commonsense tells you that a fully privatised Telstra will care more about profits than about people.

"John Howard and John Anderson will fully privatise Telstra if they are re-elected. We know this because it is in the Budget.

"John Howard and John Anderson say they won't sell Telstra until services are adequate. But whom have they made the judge of that? When it comes to Telstra, the Government has made itself judge, jury and executioner.

"Now the Howard-Anderson Government plans to fully privatise Telstra in the 2003-04 financial year, before even half the money the Government says is necessary to fix mobile phone services and Internet services has been spent.

"The Government is trying to be tricky on Telstra but Australians won't be deceived.

"Today I've signed the pledge, but I doubt John Howard and John Anderson will do the same. And why? Because in their heart of hearts, no matter what they say or what they do, John Howard and John Anderson are ideologically obsessed with the full privatisation of Telstra - you can Budget on it!

"If Australians want to retain Telstra in majority government ownership, then they should vote for Labor at the coming federal election.

"Let's keep Telstra for all Australians."

An interesting sidelight to the Telstra pledge is a claim made in The Australian on July 23 by Glenn Milne. Milne claims that the Telstra pledge was not offered during the Aston by-election campaign because the ALP candidate, Kieran Boland, has a significant investment in Telstra shares:

"A search of the Telstra share registry shows that one Kieran Boland the Labor candidate for Aston is a substantial beneficiary of the sale of the first tranche of Telstra. Boland was a consultant to Yellow Pages in his four-year stint outside professional Labor politics. As such, he received a parcel of Telstra shares as part of his employee entitlement. But he also bought 1650 T1 shares and 800 instalment receipts, bringing his total share value up to about $25,000 minimum.

You can bet the same bit of hypocrisy will be repeated around the country by Labor candidates, prepared to swear on the Bible that a privatised Telstra is bad for the country, but also prepared to invest in the company's shares in the hope of making a profit. Sometimes politics is just a crummy game."

Beazley has also come under attack from the government over a commitment given in the early 1990s by the previous Labor government to retain the Commonwealth Bank in public ownership. The bank was subsequently privatised in full.

Beazley says there is a difference between the two cases because Telstra serves all Australians, whereas the bank did not.



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