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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Senate rejects Telstra sell-off
Telstra customer
The Senate's decision was highly political
The Australian parliament has once again rejected a government plan to sell the state's majority stake in leading telecoms firm Telstra.

Privatisation of Telstra, which could bring 30bn Australian dollars (12bn; $22bn) into state coffers, has long been an aim of the current government.

But the opposition-dominated Senate vetoed the plan, after rejecting it first last October.

Left-wing senators fear the effect on services to remote rural areas.

Providing telecoms services to the sparsely-populated hinterland is highly unprofitable, and the opposition fears a privatised utility will not maintain standards.


There is an element of politics to the Senate's decision, however.

The opposition Labor party, currently riding high in the polls, hopes the government will exercise its right to dissolve parliament and call elections.

"If [Prime Minister] John Howard wants to use this bill as a double dissolution trigger Labor says bring it on," Labor communications spokesman Lindsay Tanner said.

The government passed up such an opportunity the last time the Telstra bill was rejected, however, and is unlikely to take the bait this time.

The government has other options for Telstra's future, including spinning off non-core interests such as its stake in TV provider Foxtel, or its Sensis advertising unit

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