The Commonwealth government has refuted opposition claims that Telstra will be fully privatised in the near future after Shadow Minister for Communications, Lindsay Tanner, claimed the government is pushing ahead with legislation.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, said there would be no consideration on the further sale of Telstra until the government is satisfied that rural and regional services are adequate.
An opposition spokesperson said services and consumers would suffer if Telstra was fully privatised.
“Telstra has a monopoly and is too big for any government to regulate,” he said. “Privatisation would result in a lack of support and facilities in regional areas. It would be just like the failure of banks to maintain services in rural areas.”
The government hit back at the comparison to bank privatisation, with a spokesperson pointing out that a Labor government was responsible for the sale of the Commonwealth Bank.
“That kind of comparison has no standing considering a Labor government sold off the Commonwealth Bank, leaving people in rural and regional areas without sufficient services,” he said.
“The government will ensure that does not happen should Telstra be fully privatised in the future.”
The opposition spokesperson claimed privatisation of the telco would mean increases in line rental fees and a deterioration of the network.
He declined to comment on whether regulation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would be effective.
The Government spokesperson said regulation was already in place, adding that Telstra had to abide by government legislation, guidelines and a customer service guarantee.
“According to the Australian Communications Authority, the Telstra network is in good condition,” he said. “Line rental fee increases are in accordance with government and ACCC regulation.”
Tanner also claimed broadband take-up is lagging badly, but Alston again refuted the claims.
“It [Telstra] is moving very much in line with international experience,” he said.
Alston claimed take-up of broadband services had increased 163 per cent during the past 12 to 18 months.
The government said services were improving throughout Australia, citing the recent $250 million investment by Telstra to further improve network resilience, reduce fault levels and increase product availability in Telstra Country Wide managed areas.