Call for open audit on Telstra

15 Dec, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE Federal Government should set up a transparent audit process to ensure Telstra services throughout Australia are at an acceptable level before the remaining 51pc of public ownership in the company is sold off.

According to WA Local Government Association (WALGA) president Bill Mitchell, Telstra services in regional WA have to improve dramatically before the government sells the telco.

"If the government gave a commitment that it would look at that undertaking, then that would make us a lot more comfortable," Mr Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell said landline, mobile phone and satellite phone services and pricing levels weren't up to parity with major metropolitan centres.

"Until those pricing and infrastructure service levels are addressed, we don't believe Telstra should be sold," he said.

Mr Mitchell said the WALGA was lobbying politicians to get a guarantee that some of the money from the sale of Telstra would be set aside to address these shortcomings.

"But once the government loses its 51pc bargaining power, any lobbying power is dramatically reduced and it's open then to market forces," he said.

Mr Mitchell was not confident that attempts by the government to future-proof rural services after the sale of Telstra would be effective.

"I don't believe you can lock in any sort of performance guarantees after the government sells its percentage," he said.

Mr Mitchell said the association was also concerned about the need to replace telecommunications equipment to keep up with evolving high-technology systems.

"And there's still lots of grey spots in the mobile coverage that needs to be addressed throughout WA," he said.

The Federal Government has been pushing the use of satellite broadband technology, through its Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBis), as a solution to the telecommunications divide in the bush.

And while Mr Mitchell said local government had embraced the technology, it was still too expensive to be economical for most rural users.

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