- For 10 years, Mr Howard has maintained that Telstra operates independently of government interference.
- Since the appointment of Sol Trujillo, Telstra has been aggressively fighting the ACCC to get its own way, something Mr Trujillo worked hard on when working for a US Telco, and has previously annoyed The Federal Government.
- The Federal Government announced several weeks ago, that it was selling the remaining 50.1% of Telstra, which it owns (T3). Some of this will go into the "Futures Fund" to offset unfunded (budgetary) liability for Federal Puublic Servants' superannuation.
- The nominee, Mr Geoff Cousins, is a former adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, and former CEO of Optus Vision, a competitor of Telstra's.
- Since the Federal Government still owns 50.1%, it will get its way.
Questions for voters to ask:
- WHY has the government waited till after the announcement of the T3 to appoint its board member, especially given its "hands off" history?
- WHAT (political) capital does it expect to make? Does it expect to gain access to Board discussions which no other shareholder has? (see also, Q3, below)
- Given Mr Cousins' close ties to Mr Howard, is there not potential for Mr Cousins to have a confilct of interest?
- WHAT is Mr Cousins' brief from the Federal Government? It would not nominate a person so close to the Prime Minister without having an agenda.
- WHY has the government not given Telstra more notice, so it can more thoroughly investigate Mr Cousins' credentials?
This appointment has all the markings of a political stoush between the Federal Government and the current Board of Telstra, and Mr Trujillo, in particular.