08 October 2007


The great thing about Jase is that you'll always know who he's had lunch with. Last time we heard from Jase he was attending a Parker Partners knees-up, where it's entirely possible that a Telstra flack was helping him with his next column. In PR, you've succeeded when people start absorbing your talking points as their own opinions: in this case, the Telstra job on Jase has worked a beauty.

The latest has it all: lame pun headline (Coonan the barbarian, geddit?), the self-reference ("my list of the Howard Government's All-Star Bunglers"), and the absolute absence of any judgment about policy and people ("I don't think that trying to wreck this country's greatest corporate asset is a good idea", as though that's all that telco regulation is all about).
Bashing Telstra might long have been a national sport, but isn't it time we all grew up?

Sure, Telstra has its share of problems — what company with 21 million customers wouldn't?

If customers are your problem, it's time to get out of business. A business with too few customers has more problems, not less. Not all criticism of Telstra is immature Jase.
Try picking up a phone in the United States, or in Europe.

Yep, done it Jase. Now what? Did you actually have a point there? Are you really judging our phone system by fixed-line standards? What about wireless networks in Asia, with more than 21 million customers carrying more than just voice and revolutionising the way we communicate? Still think it's a miracle, or have you been sucked in by people who want you to be amazed at occasional flashes of competence?

Who do you call when your system isn't working?
That meant competitors like Dodo or Optus who wanted to use that network to deliver their own products would have to pay a price that subsidised the cost of delivering the network to the bush.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Only if that is what they're actually subsidising, Jase. If they (and their customers) are actually subsidising Phil Burgess in the style to which he's become accustomed, then: no, it isn't.
the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which under the leadership of Graeme Samuel has decreed that anything Telstra wants, it can't have.

Jase, if you were a journalist, would you accept that the reverse was a better strategy? Have you actually asked the ACCC if that's what their strategy is? Do you think it might be something other than gimme gimme gimme?
Too weak to stand up to Samuel, and eager to shift the blame onto someone else, Coonan has demonised Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo and its board.

Why should Coonan go into bat for whatever Telstra wants, and with what legal power would she do so? Did you even ring the minister's office, Jase? Doesn't really stand up to the whole all-conquering imagery in the headline, does it? I always find it fascinating when you scupper one of your own articles, but this time you're going for broke.
who is on the Telstra board and ask why a group of such exceptionally high achievers would be a party to what amounts to a giant conspiracy to rip off its customers.

This is not some left-wing NGO we're talking about.

Since when do left-wing NGOs (with the possible exception of some unions) rip off their customers?
The Telstra board includes ... a current director of Macquarie Bank ... a former chief executive of BHP Petroleum and a former chairman of AMP ... former advertising guru ... a close friend of John Howard ... one time New Right hero

Yeah, no price-gougers there.
Instinct tells me that if a group of people of this calibre can remain so united behind their chief executive for so long, then they are probably onto something.

Considering how long it took to find a management team, and how much face they'd lose if they dumped a leadership team that is focused on playing political silly-buggers rather than running a telco, they are onto saving their own reputations and to hell with customers.
But this new network is not to fill existing gaps in services in rural Australia: it's to duplicate what is already being provided by Telstra, but with unproven technology.

Then there is the Government's licence condition that Telstra maintain — at massive expense — its old CDMA mobile network beyond January 28 next year, when it already had its perfectly good Next G mobile network in place to take over.

NextG is unproven technology, Jase, just like OpEl. When you have a monopoly service it's hard to work out what the right price is and should be - and the last people you should ask are the monopolists themselves.

Here's a hint about PR, Jase: if they have enough money to duchess you, don't listen when they whinge about not having enough money to do their job.
"Structural separation" is code for splitting up the company and that would destroy what's left of the share price.

Really? For most companies, splitting the company actually releases value tied up in monolithic structures. Did you actually check with anyone who knows the stockmarket Jase, other than the Telstra PR dolly who fed you? Why would Babcock & Brown knowingly engage in value-destroying activity after all this time, Jase?
The only joke in this debate is the Government's ... refusal to lift a finger to make happen the one thing that everyone wants: a world-class broadband network.

Actually, I'm quite happy with more than one world-class broadband network to choose from. I'm not convinced that FTTN is that, Jase, but maybe you'll miss out on future junkets if you start asking questions about network quality by a company that just isn't interested in quality service - except for the most gullible journalists.
In no area of public policy has Coonan performed so poorly as in her management of Telstra.

And here's me thinking that Sol Trujillo's job was to manage Telstra. What's your idea of good management - other than lavishing taxpayer money on Telstra, Jase? The fact that you have no idea puts you at the top of my list of All-Star Press Gallery Bunglers.


  1. Hate to ruin the premise of your piece Andrew, but Telstra didn't attend our annual Canberra event and nor do we work for Telstra. In my humble opinion it is nice to see someone like Jason being out of step of the usual media line line that somehow all Telstra does is strategically and morally wrong.

  2. I find it hard to believe that absolutely nobody from Telstra has ever attended any Parker Partners event where Jase was also present.

    There is no "usual media line line that somehow all Telstra does is strategically and morally wrong". If there were, the cure for one-sided propaganda is not equal-but-opposite one-sided proapaganda.

    Hardest of all to believe, however, is any sort of humility on your part about the worth of your opinion.