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Telstra bill to be rejected a second time

Telstra bill to be rejected a second time

The government's determination to sell its remaining shares in Telstra is only matched by the will of Labor and the minor parties to make sure it doesn't go ahead.

Once again the government introduced the Telstra bill to parliament last week and once again Labor and the minor parties quashed it. The government's bill was defeated 35 votes to 30.

Communications Minister Daryl Williams said the result was disappointing and one that would penalise Telstra, its 1.7 million minority shareholders, the public and the telecommunications industry.

The government reintroduced the bill seeking to offload its 51.05 percent stake in the telco and lost but everyone had a theory as to why it was reintroduced.

It is the same bill that was rejected by the senate in October last year and everyone has a theory about its reintroduction to Parliament.

According to the Australian Democrats, the Telstra bill is being used as a double dissolution trigger.

Democrats communications spokesman John Cherry told Parliament, "It's a pity we're debating this bill again today because there are 96 bills on the agenda for the Senate at the moment ... and yet we're required to waste a whole range of hours doing this bill again when we debated this bill at great lengths last year. We had an extensive senate inquiry last year, and since then nothing has changed in terms of the government's position," he said.

Democrats senator Meg Lees was a bit more colourful likening the government's renewed push to the film Groundhog Day.

"What I do know is that it feels like Groundhog Day," Senator Lees told Parliament, referring to the film in which the same day is repeated many times.

Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown claims it is back on the agenda as a result of the free trade deal with the US.

Senator Brown said the government has made a commitment to the US to sell Telstra before the free trade agreement (FTA) is signed.

He said the prime minister is expected to meet the US president in the next few months and it is an attempt to make Telstra available to "overseas interests".

Labor Senator Mark Bishop criticised the telco for its international investment decisions and purchase of the Trading Post newspaper.

"We want Telstra to be a builder, not a speculator," Senator Bishop said.

"We want Telstra to be a carrier, not a broadcaster."

Government senator Alan Eggleston said Telstra's services were unquestionably better than when Labor was in government.

"No other government has been more committed than the Howard government to improving telecommunication services in regional, rural and remote Australia," he said.

"This government has provided more than $1 billion to improve telecommunications and information technology infrastructure and services in rural Australia."


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