If I demanded money with threats, or demanded money in
exchange for preferential treatment, I’d be arrested. So how
come the Queensland National Party can make a demand like this and get away with it?

At the party’s conference at the weekend,
Coalition Senator Barnaby Joyce demanded billions of dollars of federal
government money to set up a bush fund to improve telecommunications
services in rural areas, otherwise he’ll vote against Telstra’s
privatisation. (See The Sydney Morning Herald report).

What’s the difference between what the Nationals
want and the Future Fund that the federal government says it will
establish to meet the future super liabilities of the Commonwealth
Public Service?

I know
in Treasurer Costello’s mind there’s a difference, but in the wider community
there isn’t. The Future Fund will be one giant slush fund with the appearance
of respectability. The
Bush fund will be a slush fund without any veneer of respectability. It will be
100% pork barrel.

Barnaby the Greedy, up there in St George, Queensland, hasn’t asked the right question of
his constituents. Instead of demanding money from the federal government, he
should be asking if anyone in the bush (or the city) will buy Telstra shares in any T3
issue, and if so at what sort of price.

In all these demands
from the Nationals, no-one has yet bothered to ask whether anyone will actually buy shares if
the bush is bought off and the sale legislation passes through federal parliament.

Peter Fray

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