Telstra sale two years away

The sale of Telstra is still at least two years away and will not happen until 2006, according to Communications Minister Helen Coonan.

Although election counting is continuing it looks likely the Coalition will win a majority of seats in the Senate allowing the government to push the sale through both houses of Parliament.

Coonan said 2006 was the earliest the government could sell its 51.05 per cent shareholding in Telstra.

But she said a bill to enable the sale could be put to the Senate earlier if services to the bush were up to scratch and market conditions were right.

Senator Coonan said the government recognizes it needs the support of the Nationals who have threatened to oppose the sale unless there is a high level of service to rural areas.

At the same time the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel said the watchdog will not object to the sale.

Labor communications spokesman Lindsay Tanner said he believed the legislation could be introduced as early as next July, when new senators took their seats.

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