How many protected public companies are
there in Australia? Quite a few from immediate memory including some of
the biggest and richest companies in the country .

Protected?
Yep, by this Federal Government, the one committed to free enterprise
and de-regulation. On Friday Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello said the
foreign shareholding cap will stay on Telstra, rejecting a plea by the
departing Telstra CEO, Ziggy Switkowski for the restriction to be
lifted.

That brought to mind the other companies that have
benefited from this stance. There is of course Qantas where the 49%
limit remains intact, despite the lengthy lobbying campaign by Qantas
chairman, Margaret Jackson and her CEO, Geoff Dixon.

There’s
Woodside Petroleum which the Federal Government protected against that
low ball offer from Shell about four years ago. Then there are the big
five banks, The ANZ, Westpac, NAB, the Commonwealth and St George. One
might go, but I would like to see a brave Treasurer say ‘yes’

The easy tax revenue gained from the cartel is just too nice!

Then
there are the various media companies, such as PBL, Seven Network and
Southern Cross and the Ten network. Those broadcasting licences do have
value. Oh, there’s also Prime, the Seven regional affiliate.

Now
that all might change when the big media law shuffle happens post July
1, but you can bet that the Federal Government will maintain some sort
of control or final ‘yes/no’ power. After all why have media laws if
they are not for control?

So you can understand how a
strategically important company in WMC Resources felt a little left out
of things when Mr Costello said yes to foreign bids from the likes of
Xstrata.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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