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Nationals' Leader says government is working through a range of issues regarding Telstra; Senator criticises American Telstra executives.

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Tuesday 6 September 2005

Nationals' Leader says government is working through a range of issues regarding Telstra; Senator criticises American Telstra executives


TONY EAST LEY: In the light of Telstra's campaign against Government regulations, the leader of the National Party Mark Vaile says the Government won't weaken its desire for rules that boost connection and repair times. 


Mr Vaile won't comment on the recent performance of Chief Executive Sol Trujillo, but says Telstra's board is ultimately responsible for the performance of the company. 


Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce meantime has attacked Telstra executives over the company's share price plunge. Telstra shares slumped more than five per cent yesterday to $4.34. That's 40 per cent down on the T2 privatisation price. 


This morning Communications Minister Helen Coonan will present the details of the Telstra legislation to the Liberal-National Party room, and expects to introduce the Bill tomorrow. 


Chief Political Correspondent, Catherine McGrath, reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: It's the detail of the legislation that concerns the National Party. Once the company is sold the structure is here to stay and they want to ensure that the $3 billion package is enough, particularly for the broadband roll out, and that the regulations have teeth. 


Nationals leader Mark Vaile says Telstra's posturing won't weaken their approach. 


MARK VAILE: The Government is working through a range of issues, as we discussed in the overall package, that was announced a few weeks ago.  


There were three elements: there was investment for the future, the $3.1 billion; there was the requirement for greater competition within the telecommunications market in Australia, and of course there was the regulation regarding basic services in Australia and that's what fundamentally what people want. They want to be sure that when their phone goes out that it'll get repaired.  


These are not onerous regulations, these are not things that are new to the marketplace, these are the things that have existed that people have relied upon for a number of years of telecommunications in Australia and we just want to ensure that that remains the case. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: So you're putting a little bit of pressure on the minister at the last moment just to make sure they're there because you want her to deliver that - is that right - in the bush? 


MARK VAILE: I'm not putting pressure on the minister, I'm working with the minister to ensure that what we gave an undertaking to achieve in terms of our announcement about going ahead with the full sale of Telstra, that we would have these mechanisms in place. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And on the performance of Sol Trujillo and fellow US executive Phil Burgess, Mark Vaile says it's a matter for the board. 


MARK VAILE: It's the board's responsibility to ensure that the company is run properly and profitably in the interests of all shareholders. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Well, are you happy with the board's performance? Have you spoken to Don McGauchie? 


MARK VAILE: No, it's not my responsibility to talk to Don McGauchie. Don McGauchie is the Chairman of the board, he communicates with the shareholding minister, that looks after the Government's interest, but there are a lot of other shareholders out there as well that they… the board and management also have a responsibility too. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: For Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce the issue is regulation. If they don't have teeth he says they won't be worth a thing. Eventually the success of the proposed regulations will determine his support for the sale 


BARNABY JOYCE: The regulations are as important as the trust fund that the National Party carved out. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: So if Telstra continues with its planned campaign against the Government regulations, where does that leave you? 


BARNABY JOYCE: Well, it either shows two things, that it's ineffectual, and in which case they just look a little bit foolish, or if it is effectual, it means that we would have to question whether we could support the sale. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: As for Telstra executives, he's not impressed. 


BARNABY JOYCE: It really calls into question whether they did their due diligence before they came out to our nation. It looks awfully like they grabbed a beer and a burger and jumped on a plane and came over without actually finding out and doing some inquiry into the regulatory environment of Australia and the conditions of the company that they were coming out to manage. 


It looks awfully like it's come as some sort of surprise to them, which makes me question what their due diligence process was like, or are they really miracle business people or are they a little bit shoddy in the research they did? 


TONY EASTLEY: Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce ending that report from Chief Political Correspondent, Catherine McGrath.