Telstra chairman Donald McGauchie doesn’t appear to be anyone’s idea of an
intemperate person. Nor, until recently, has he ever sought
headlines. So why did the Telstra chairman choose to launch an
attack on the integrity of the company’s regulator, the ACCC? asks Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Age. The circumstances under which the letter was released on Monday says that the latest exchange of
missives between Telstra and Graeme Samuel wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment,
visceral response to the previous hostilities between Telstra
executives and the commission. It suggests there was a wider audience and a larger purpose for
the letter than a simple tit for tat.

The debate now raging between Samuel and Telstra has been brewing for a long time and is
sufficiently complex that the average Telstra customer and
shareholder would have no chance of discerning whether the telecom
is pushing the regulatory envelope too hard or whether we have a
feral regulator on a crusade to promote the interests of Telstra’s
competitors, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. The fact that it’s morphed into a public slanging match makes it
all the harder to identify the facts beneath the emotion.

As with all bouts of
bawling and biffo, it is hard to concentrate on what is being said, says Alan Kohler in The Smage. Essentially it is an argument about who subsidises broadband in
remote areas: people in the suburbs, the Government, other
telecommunications companies, or Telstra shareholders – or rather,
in what proportions they do it. There are two distinct audiences for the Donald McGauchie-Graeme
Samuel biffo display, with two distinct constituencies: Federal
Cabinet, on behalf of Telstra shareholders, and backbenchers, on
behalf of rural voters.

Lion Nathan is set to launch legal action to block the cheeky
Coopers Brewery $260-a-share buyback and keep its takeover plan on
target, reports The Age. Coopers could be seen as trying to
defeat Lion Nathan’s $352 million takeover bid by substituting it with
its own “takeover by stealth,” says Bryan Frith in The Australian.

More than $1 billion of retail assets are now
up for sale as merchants wilt under the pressure of shrinking margins
and declining consumer spending, reports The Australian. Retail magnate Solomon Lew was the latest to join the pre-Christmas
sale yesterday as he put his prized Witchery fashion chain on the
market for an undisclosed sum, while the owners of Sydney’s iconic
Gowings department store also put out a desperate call for buyers.

On Wall Street, US stocks finished lower overnight, with especially
heavy losses for shares of homebuilders, after Toll Brothers issued a
disappointing outlook, touching off worries that the housing sector and
consumer spending could both slow soon. The Dow Jones closed down 46.51 points at 10,539 – MarketWatch has a full report here.