The Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, said: "Ensuring a competitive telecommunications market is vital if we are to improve productivity. Improved productivity is essential to Australia's future. Increased productivity means more and better paying jobs for the future. It increases our ability to meet the future needs of our ageing population."
Crean reiterated the ALP's commitment to public ownership of Telstra: "We believe maintaining Telstra in majority government ownership is essential if we are to ensure that all Australians, particularly those living in rural and regional areas, have equitable access to the latest in telecommunications services."
This is the text of a statement released today by the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean:
Today Labor releases a discussion paper, prepared by the Shadow Minister for Communications Lindsay Tanner, that focuses on the future of Telstra and the delivery of affordable and equitable telecommunications services to all Australians.
In a major speech last month I restated Labor's opposition to the further privatisation of Telstra.
At the time, I noted that the fixation of some commentators and the Government with privatisation is actually hampering the real reform that our telecommunications sector needs - more competition.
Unlike the Government, Labor will respond constructively to the real challenges facing telecommunications in Australia.
The discussion paper explores how we can best create truly open telecommunications networks, with easier access for competitors and more transparent pricing to produce better services and lower prices.
Ensuring a competitive telecommunications market is vital if we are to improve productivity. Improved productivity is essential to Australia's future. Increased productivity means more and better paying jobs for the future. It increases our ability to meet the future needs of our ageing population.
Telecommunications is a significant cost for business. Small business has identified the cost of telecommunications as their third biggest concern - well ahead of the Government's obsession - unfair dismissals.
More affordable telecommunications not only generates significant savings for existing businesses, it is essential for the emergence of new industries. More telecommunications also enables families to access the latest in education, health, government and commercial services, no matter where they live. It can help put services back, where they have been taken away.
These are the real priorities for Australian telecommunications policy.
Whatever course Labor takes, Labor will protect the interests of Telstra's two million mum and dad shareholders, many of whom have already suffered the loss of up to a third of their investment in T2.
While Labor is tackling the real issues in telecommunications policy, the Government is bitterly divided over its plans to fully privatise Telstra.
Labor has no such divisions.
We believe maintaining Telstra in majority government ownership is essential if we are to ensure that all Australians, particularly those living in rural and regional areas, have equitable access to the latest in telecommunications services.
The Howard Government's obsession with the full privatisation of Telstra, confirmed in last week's Budget, will not improve service; nor will it enhance competition. Rather, it will only make the problems worse.
Put simply, if all of Telstra is sold Australian consumers will be the losers: paying higher prices and receiving lower quality of services than they should.
Many in the Liberal and National Parties know this, especially those representing seats in regional and rural areas.
That's why they support Labor's opposition to any further sale of Telstra, and it's why Peter Costello can't even get the sale through his own party room.
While the Coalition squabbles, Labor is raising important issues about Telstra's pivotal role in the economic and social life of our nation. Through this discussion paper, Labor will explore the best means to ensure Australia's telecommunications market delivers better outcomes for families, schools, businesses and the nation.
The paper does not represent Labor's final policy. Rather, this is a consultative document that provides a framework for a constructive debate about the real issues facing telecommunications policy in Australia today.
The paper places Australian consumers at the centre of our policy - and asks: how can we ensure better service, cheaper calls and broadband Internet access that is the envy of the rest of the world?