Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Telstra in the news again...

Telstra has been the centre of attention again this week. Last month, Telstra executives held a meeting with John Howard where he was told that Telstra is borrowing from its cash reserves to pay shareholder dividends and that a good portion of Telstra's line capacity has faults.
The document showed Telstra had borrowed $550 million from its reserves so it could pay healthy dividends to shareholders in 2005 and a further $2.2 billion to cover next year's payouts.

It also revealed Telstra had failed to make necessary investments in its network and needs up to $3 billion to fix its problems including flaws in more than 14 per cent of its lines.

The problem isn't with the actual information revealed, it is that the information was only revealed to the majority shareholder, that being the Federal Government. If some information is revealed to one shareholder, it should be released to all shareholders I thought.

John Howard's comments on the situation give me mirth:
Mr Howard said the matter highlighted the difficult situation the Government was in, being Telstra's majority shareholder and its regulator.

"Doesn't it again highlight the point I'm making, that we have this ridiculous conflict of interest?" he said.

"I mean here you all are saying: 'Oh, you should have made that information available because you're the Government.'

"Yes, we are the Government, but we're also the shareholder and it's just an absurd conflict of interest and it's in the public interest that that conflict of interest be ended - but in a way that is not unfair to the Australian taxpayer."

Umm, John, could I have a word? If you had never started down the path of privatising Telstra, this rather large conflict of interest would never have happened. The government could have run Telstra as it saw fit and wouldn't have to tell ASIC anything.

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