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Howard confirms Telstra power grab.

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John Howard confirmed today in question time that Telstra management wants to buy Fairfax, and that the Government supports this proposal.

His only response to the fact was this would place his Government in direct control of a major commercial media organisation was to claim that this just showed that Telstra should be privatised. This is a naked display of total contempt for the Australian people, who are overwhelmingly opposed to Telstra privatisation, and the Australian Parliament, which has voted against it.

Howard’s admission exposes the cute evasions of Telstra Chairman Bob Mansfield this morning. Instead of doing a better job delivering telecommunications services, Telstra clearly intends to leverage its

monopoly power into the media sector. Regardless of who owns it, this would be a disaster for media diversity and democracy.

Telstra buying Fairfax would be bad for consumers, bad for Telstra shareholders and bad for our democracy.

Instead of a better network, fewer faults and more broadband, consumers will get more concentration of media ownership. Telstra shareholders would face another ill-conceived escapade, like the Asian adventures that lost several billion dollars, and would lose most of the serious independent scrutiny of Telstra’s performance. And Australian citizens would face a banana republic style perversion of democracy, with the government assuming direct control of a major commercial media organisation.

John Howard and Bob Mansfield should immediately rule out any Telstra takeover of Fairfax or any other media organisation.

February 18, 2004

For further information contact Lindsay Tanner or Peter van Vliet on (02) 6277 4428 or 0408 188 055.