Telstra still up for corporate grab
by Andrew Jackson Telstra's record $2.6 billion profit is proof that the company was not being held back by majority Government ownership, says the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU). It stated that Telstra should use the money to boost investment in infrastructure and employee training, so that it could "serve the Australian public well". Colin Cooper, President of the Communications Division of the CEPU said that no further cost cutting is needed, and Telstra should scrap plans to axe a further 5,000 jobs. In the light of Telstra's profit result, they should resist market pressure to "spin-off" and partially privatise sectors of the company, especially in the growth areas of MobileNet and Network Design and Construction. "Telstra is looking like a reliable performer" and a "fire sale" of further assets was not needed. Mr Cooper said that it was vital that adequate funding be committed to upgrade and maintain this national resource. "I hope we have seen the end of the spending cuts that have set back work in this area over the last twelve months". Last year, Prime Minister Howard and Communications Minister Senator Alston were loudly trumpeting the coalition policy of full privatisation of Telstra. Now, with a Federal election due in the next six months and the Government performing poorly in the polls, it appears the Government has decided to put the sensitive issue of privatisation on the back-burner. The public remains committed to the preservation of the remainder of Telstra under public control as the only guarantee of quality service. When Telstra's results were announced Howard said: "Our position is that the sale is conditional on us first being satisfied, and I am not so satisfied". For the government, its privatisation plans of the remaining 51 per cent of Telstra have only been delayed, not abandoned. Labor Shadow Minster for Communications Stephen Smith claimed that Mr Howard was planning to move "full steam ahead with the full privatisation of Telstra". He said that Mr Howard was only waiting until an "action plan" to improve services was in place, and not necessarily wait until services to rural Australia had actually improved. Labor remained firm in its commitment not to sell the remaining 51 percent of Telstra, and the profit result vindicated its policy, said Mr Smith. Telstra's CEO, former rocket scientist Dr Ziggy Switkowski remained coy about the future ownership of Telstra. "It is an election year and Telstra is going to be a bit of a political football", Dr Switkowski said, and refused to be drawn into the political debate on privatision. Nevertheless, Telstra's Chief Financial Officer, Mr David Moffatt, vowed to carry on with mass job cutting, signalling that another 5,000 employees would need to be shed if they were to meet their commitment to slash jobs by 10,000.