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Brown Gives Howard Hope Of Green Support For Telstra Privatisation

May 31, 2002

Senator Bob Brown, Australian Greens In a move likely to cause tension within the Australian Greens, as well as between the Greens and the ALP/Democrats camp, the party's national leader, Senator Bob Brown, has thrown John Howard a lifeline which may help the government get its Telstra privatisation legislation through the Senate.

The media has reported today that Brown has offered to back "the sale of Telstra in the Senate in return for firm government undertakings to end land clearing, particularly in Queensland, and logging of old growth forests."

Brown denies selling out his party's policy of opposition to the privatisation of the remaining 51% of Telstra, saying that the Greens National Council will consider the issue this weekend.

Speaking on radio this morning, John Howard said: "We're not going to be bargained out of good environmental policy or good resources policy, but I'm prepared to listen to what Senator Brown has got to put if he gets it through the policy review by his party."

The government currently has 35 members in the Senate. This will not change when senators elected last November take their places. It needs to find 4 more senators to pass its Telstra legislation. On July 1, the Greens will have 2 seats. The former ALP senator from Tasmania, Shayne Murphy, could be a third vote. There is one independent senator (Brian Harradine), one One Nation senator (Len Harris), and the Democrats will have 8 seats (currently 9).


This is the text of Senator Bob Brown's media release today:

Brown Brings Forests On Line

The Greens Party policy is firmly opposed to the privatisation of Telstra, Greens Senator Bob Brown said in Hobart this morning.

If the Prime Minister wants the environment bought (sic) into discussion with his policy of selling off Telstra then he must also look at his policy of record destruction of Australia’s forests, native woodlands and wildlife, Senator Brown said.

The Greens oppose the sale of Telstra. It is a core issue of social justice for us. We also are highly motivated to end the destruction of forest cover, which is a root cause of salinity, species extinction and global warming.

It is obvious that a responsible national government would keep Telstra and save the forests and woodlands. Mr Howard is not up to it.

"I want our Greens National Council to look at this collision of policy imperatives and help give direction to its elected representatives," Senator Brown said.


This is the text of John Howard's comments on Radio 3AW with Neil Mitchell:

MITCHELL: Bob Brown is suggesting he may support the full sale of Telstra if you're prepared to stop logging old growth forests, is that a chance?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm fascinated to hear what he's been saying on this. I picked it up this morning. We're not going to be, as it were, bargained out of good environmental policy or good resource policy but I'm prepared to listen to what Senator Brown has got to put if he gets it through the policy review by his Party. What this indicates and also some remarks made by Shane Murphy, the Independent Senator from Tasmania, indicate that even some of the more strident opponents of the full privatisation of Telstra realise that we cannot go on forever with this half pregnant situation where Telstra is neither fish nor fowl. There's no way we're turning back the clock. We're not going to renationalise the 49%. Nobody's arguing that. Not even the extreme left wing political position in Australia is arguing that. So in the end at some stage and we argue after we're completely satisfied with conditions in the bush or facilities in the bush are up to scratch that you then can move to a furthe! r privatisation. We haven't reached that point yet but clearly people are starting, no matter what the strength of their previous opposition has been, people are now starting to turn. And I would say to Senator Brown, and we are happy to listen to you. That doesn't mean to say that we're going to agree with your conditions. We'll listen.


This is the text of a media release from Senator Lyn Allison, Telecommunications Spokesperson for the Australian Democrats:

Senator Lyn Allison, Australian Democrats spokesperson on Telecommunications Greens' Senator Bob Brown has betrayed the bush and Australian voters who were assured that he would never support the sale of Telstra, the Australian Democrats said today.

Democrats Telecommunications Spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said, "Bob Brown's offer to the Howard Government is a spectacular failure to keep his promises."

If the Greens wanted to sell Telstra they should have said so before the election but instead Bob Brown told the Ten Network (28/10/2001) that they never would:

"They will never get us to support the sale of Telstra or any of its components because it is better for Australia that it stay in the public hands."

Senator Allison said, "Bob Brown is quick to forget his previous rhetoric and the fact that services to the bush are still not up to scratch. A privatised Telstra will be more interested in its shareholders than the low-income customers the Greens say they represent.

"Such a deal would be a ruthless trade-off to the detriment of rural telecommunications and loss of an important source of revenue for public services, year in and year out.

"Unlike the Greens, the Democrats have achieved major wins for the environment - $1b of changes to the tax package, tightened vehicle emission standards, cleaner fuels and a greatly improved Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation laws – all without cross trading casualties.

"What will Bob Brown do next? Side with the Government on Disability Support Pensions to advantage some other group?"

"Senator Brown has betrayed voters with this attempt at horse trading. The Democrats pledged at the last election that we would not support the further privatisation of Telstra and we stand firm on that commitment," Senator Allison concluded.

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