The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 17/08/2005

Interview with Catherine McGrath
ABC AM

Wednesday, 17 August 2005
8.05 am

SUBJECTS: Telstra

MCGRATH:

A short time ago Treasurer Peter Costello outlined the arguments to the AM programme.

TREASURER:

I think the proposal which is going to be put to the Liberal Party and the National Party today is a very good proposal. It can resolve the ownership of Telstra, it can ensure that there is open competition, it can safeguard services in rural and regional Australia and it can also set Australia up for dealing with the demographic time bomb that is going to hit us in 20 years time and prepare financially for the future through our Future Fund. So, I think that if you can square off all of those aims of policy, it is a pretty good arrangement and it will resolve this issue once and for all.

MCGRATH:

Is it going to be enough money given that telecommunications changes are happening so rapidly, we can’t predict what is going to happen in five or 10 years time?

TREASURER:

Sure, things are changing rapidly but not only is capacity increasing but costs are falling, you have got to remember that. And the good thing about telecommunications is that a lot of this new technology that is becoming available is getting cheaper and cheaper and technology is also enabling us increasingly to overcome distance. So, I think the prospects of ensuring that services in rural and regional Australia are kept up to a very high standard are good, very good.

MCGRATH:

What is the timing going to be, when do you think we will see Telstra sold?

TREASURER:

Well, the actual sale of Telstra is quite different to the enabling legislation. I think the Parliament has got to resolve this enabling legislation as soon as possible. But the sale doesn’t have to go through immediately. You are talking about a very large number of shares which the Government owns. The value of those shares rises and falls on a daily basis. Last week the Government lost $2 billion on its Telstra shareholding because of one announcement. So, the actual sale should be timed for a point when the return can be maximised for the Australian taxpayer. We are not a distressed seller, we don’t have to put these out into the market because we need the money. What we actually want to do is maximise the return for the public and in particular for the public facing this big demographic challenge.

MCGRATH:

Well when will we see the legislation?

TREASURER:

Well, I think that once an agreement is reached in relation to the proposal we should see the legislation more or less straight away. But an agreement has to be reached, that is not reached at the moment. I hope that an agreement could be reached in the near future. Parliament gets up at the end of this week and I hope that we would see legislation pretty shortly after that.