Telstra, Telstra and more Telstra

The news on the forthcoming sale of the remaining 49% public share of the Australian telecommunications giant is grim, no matter what view you take of privatising the public asset.

Few people will be unaware of the fact that I have been a critic of tranches-oriented privatisation of the telecommunications giant since about 1991. If you had to privatise the telco at all, then the Australian Government ought to have kept control of the physical infrastructure itself (including transmission towers for mobile and wireless communications) and everything else might have been sold off. That way we could have maintained some local manufacturing support, and used the infrastructure, connectivity and minimum universal service obligations as a bargaining chip with private players, and Telstra executives wouldn’t have had any choice about the matter. If they wanted a stake in Australian telecommunications (including internet service provision, networked communications, etc) then they’d have had to lease Government-owned networks.

Oh well. Too late now.

But the news stories about the sale of all remaining control the Government has over the telco doesn’t inspire one with a sense of confidence about the future directions and strategic planning of the incumbent company executives.

– Opposition spokesperson on telecommunications, Stephen Conroy, has requested an inquiry be set up to investigate the legal issues associated with the full sale of Telstra

– National Party “Man of the Moment”, Barnaby Joyce, says he’s happy with the details of the sale of Telstra. Well he’s a fickle individual. This morning he said he wasn’t happy with things and was going to take it back to his party, but I suppose he’s had lunch since then.

– Telstra shares are the lowest they’ve been in more than two years, with speculation rife that they will drop below $4 a share sometime later this month.

– The Prime Minister has ordered Solomon Trujillo to reign in his staff, and blasted Telstra executives for their management tactics of the telco.

– Telstra’s own webcast from CEO, Sol Trujillo and CFO, John Stanhope, announced that profits would be down 10-15% on 2004 figures.

So things are bad. And they’re only going to get worse. Other than for mobile communications and broadband connections, I don’t know how much I’ll be using Telstra anymore. As a business proposition, we may well have to see what we can all do for the physical infrastructure, and perhaps share the cost of a new Broadband Powerline (BPL) network infrastructure. But for landline phone calls, I’m swapping to Skype.

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