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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 736

(Question No. 1280)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, upon notice, on 28 March 1994:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of moves by the Australian-owned Companies Association to press for a Trade Practices Commission inquiry into the level of foreign ownership of Optus.

  (2) Has Optus made undertakings to the Government that its shares owned directly or indirectly by foreign interests will not rise above 49 per cent.

  (3) Has this foreign shareholding now risen well above 50 per cent due to the sale to overseas companies of shares in Australian companies which in turn own Optus shares.

  (4) If this is correct, and Optus is now foreign-controlled, what is the Minister doing to let Queensland consumers know about it before they choose their preferred carrier in the ballots now under way.

  (5) What will the Minister do to ensure that Optus adheres to ownership agreements with the Government.

Senator McMullan —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes

  (2) The standard provisions of the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 apply to foreign ownership of Optus Communications Pty Ltd and this is the responsibility of the Treasurer.

  (3) No. At the time that the questions were asked Optus had a 51 per cent Australian ownership in terms of the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975. However, on 11 April 1994, Optus announced that the Nine Network Australia Limited will acquire 15 per cent of Optus. When this transaction is completed it will raise the level of Australian participation in the ownership of Optus to 58 per cent. The ownership of Optus would then be as follows:

  Mayne Nickless—21.25%


  Cable and Wireless—20.85%


  National Mutual—5.20%

  AIDC Telecommunications Fund—8.20%

  Nine Network Australia—15.00%

  (Numbers are from Optus media release but do not add due to rounding)

  (4) Not applicable.

  (5) See answer to question (2).