Telstra sale legislation debated in Australian House of Representatives, considered "urgent"

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The legislation and amendments ensuring the sale of Australia's half-privatized telecommunications provider, Telstra, was moved and debated on September 12. The Liberal/National coalition government has come under criticism for the allotting of time for debate as being insufficient.

In Federal Parliament Leader of the House Tony Abbott moved to adjourn debate at 9.06pm, to which his Labor counterpart Julia Gillard attempted to adjourn the Telstra debate until today, but Abbott put the question and used the Government's majority to move debate onward.

Abbott then moved that the legislation, comprising of three bills, be considered as urgent and allotted approximately forty-five minutes to debate all three. The Opposition had attempted to further amend the urgency motion which failed due to Government majority — there were six divisions in the space of approximately half an hour, all which failed. Gillard and Dick Adams had called the process "a disgrace", and the amendments (negotiated earlier by Senator Barnaby Joyce) were termed the "'Backdown Barnaby' bribe" by Stephen Smith before the Deputy Speaker Ian Causley asked him to withdraw.

Whilst the Government has an absolute majority in the Australian Senate, it is not guaranteed that the necessary legislation will pass this house. Garnering the support of key Senator Joyce is critical to ensure that the bills will pass (as he will have the deciding vote) and he has already stated that, due to a damning report released earlier in the House of Representatives showing that fourteen percent of lines were faulty amongst other criticism, that it has turned the "green [light] to amber" [1]. Joyce was crucial in defeating a Senate Opposition motion to delay debate until October 4, even though he himself agreed that the time for debate should be extended; he stated in an interview on the AM program on ABC Radio National that he voted against the motion as he believed crossing the floor would destroy any "political capital" he had to enable him to further negotiate improvements to the Telstra deal within his own party.

Sources

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