Telstra is to be subjected to an ACCC review sometime in the
new year, reports Michael Sainsbury
in The Australian. It will be the most comprehensive review of its fixed line
networks since the 1997 deregulation of the $32 billion-a-year telecommunications
industry, and has been sparked by a number of sunset clauses in access
declarations by the competition regulator as well as rising concerns about the
effect of new fixed line networks on the local industry.

Meanwhile, the
Victorian government has “dumbfounded everyone, from Snowy Hydro to the NSW
Government to federal Treasurer Peter Costello” – with its decision not to
support Snowy Hydro boss Terry Charlton’s bid for public listing, writes
Matthew Stevens

. The Victorians, who own 19% of the company, say the plan no longer makes
sense to them, because the corporatisation to privatisation could undermine
Snowy Hydro’s collection of arrangements to deliver water to the state’s
irrigators and to provide environmental flows to the Murray,
Murrumbidgee and Snowy rivers.

Rupert Murdoch could find himself in the witness box early
in 2006 after a Delaware court ruled News Corp should face trial over its
decision to extend a poison-pill scheme earlier this year without seeking
shareholder approval, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The Delaware Chancery Court said a group of
Australian and international fund managers had made a case for breach of
contract – and it’s now up to them to come up with the evidence to back their
claims. The case is expected to go to trial early next year.

And James Chessell and Colin Kruger
comment that the group of Australia’s biggest fund managers who met with government
advisers in Sydney last week to make a case about what they regard as excessive
regulation powered by Telstra will be “well pleased with the events of this
week.” And it’s safe to say that the fund managers – Maple-Brown Abbott, 452
Capital, Investors Mutual and Lazard Asset Management – can take some credit
influencing the Government’s changed approach to regulation and the implied
rebuke of the Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, this week.

At the Financial Review, Chanticleer writes (not online)
the ACCC’s
decision to initiate a major inquiry into fixed-line regulation is
aimed at removing the political debate from the issue. But any hopes
Finance Minister Nick Minchin holds for regulatory certainty before he
pushes the button on the full sale of Telstra are “in effect dead.” And, it’s noted, if
the decision had to be made to today, the sale would be scaled back

And the paper reports that in the 11 months to the end of November
super fund managers have produced another year of double-digit growth
– the third year in a row of positive returns. Which means that for
investors and would-be retirees, the year is ending on a “powerful
note.” But where there’s a boom, there are people trying to grab a buck
out of other people’s hard-earned savings. It’s no surprise that ASIC
has launched action against a financial planning firm it says was
churning investors; meanwhile, there’s been legal action against a
Canberra stockbroker who traded clients’ money without their
knowledge. The lesson to investors, says The Fin, is to be as well
informed as possible.

Almost a year ago, last Boxing Day, Australians woke to the
news of the Indian Ocean tsunami. What followed was a
year of natural disasters. So what can we say about the tsunami’s economic and
trade impact after it struck? asks Tim Harcourt in The Age. Well, it’s not so bad. The tsunami largely hit areas without extensive infrastructure
or capital investments; and Australia’s
part in the aid effort meant trade ties were strengthened not weakened.

Meanwhile, James McConvill
ponders the corporate governance practices of Australia’s publicly listed
companies as the annual reporting season comes to an end, and concludes that
shareholder empowerment and participation is the path to happiness – as
appealing as passive-collecting the dividend cheques and occasionally signing
off on decisions may sound.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed higher overnight, lifted by a
string of new merger deals, including Seagate Technology’s $1.9 billion
acquisition of its rival Maxtor Corp. The Dow Jones closed up 28.18 points at 10,833 – MarketWatch has a full report here.