Monday’s opening session of the May Senate
Budget Estimates Committee hearings by the Communications Committee of the Senate saw a long
collection of executives trooping south to the nation’s capital. There were reps from
the likes of Australia Post, the ABC, ACMA and of
course Telstra, which despite being 48% owned by the investing public, still
falls within the purview of the Senate estimates process.

CEO Sol Trujillo and the rest of his
amazing amigos didn’t front in February and when the hearing kicked off this
week, they were again absent from Team Telstra which consisted of the
following: Mr David Quilty, General Manager, Government Relations; Mr Geoff Nicholson, Director, Business and Financial
Services; Mr Denis Mullane,
General Manager, Regulatory Operations; Dr Tony Warren, General Manager,
Regulatory Affairs; Mr Max Jennings, General Manager,
Technology Radio Access Network; Mr Ken Sheargold, Managing Director, Service Advantage; Mr Don Pinel, Regional Managing
Director, Telstra Country Wide Queensland and Mr Ian
Wheatley, Managing Director, Procurement.

Proceedings started like
this:

Senator
CONROY—I note that Mr Trujillo does not seem to be
here.

Mr
Quilty—That is right.

Senator
CONROY—Not good enough for
him, again! Is there any chance your boss Dr Burgess is coming, Mr Quilty?

Mr
Quilty—Not
today.

Senator
CONROY—We seem to be missing Mr Gration.

Mr
Quilty—The corporate secretary is currently doing a course at
Harvard.

Senator
CONROY—So we have no-one from Telstra senior management present
today at all?

Mr
Quilty—We have a range of Telstra executives here
today.

Senator
CONROY—I used the word
‘senior’. It is not a reflection on anybody at the table—I do want
to make that point. Even in the
past when Mr Scales graced us with his presence, he
would have been considered to be at the senior
management level. But there is nobody from Telstra at the senior management
level present today.

Mr
Quilty—I would
say that we have here some very senior—

Senator
CONROY—Some fine and excellent people and I have met with many of
them over many years now, but nobody from senior
management.

Senator
RONALDSON—Mr Quilty, if this continues, you
will be bringing in the office cat for this in about two years time. There
has been a reduction every time where you are bringing down the level
of representation. Again, to take up
Senator Conroy’s point, that is no reflection on anyone at the table now, but
it has been reduced Senate
estimates after Senate estimates after Senate estimates. Can I ask you a
question? Does Dr Burgess know
anything about ULL?

Mr
Quilty—I think he
would, yes.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does he know anything about fibre
to the node?

Mr
Quilty—I think he
would.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does he know anything
about the CDMA 3G changeover?

Mr
Quilty—Like the
senior executives here today, I think he would.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does he know anything about
regulation?

Mr
Quilty—Similarly.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does he know anything about Connect Australia?

Mr
Quilty—Similarly.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does he know anything about Xtel?

Mr
Quilty—Most
likely.

Senator
RONALDSON—New ground? He knows
all these matters, doesn’t he? Isn’t he head of government relations,
effectively?

Mr
Quilty—No. I am head of government
relations.

Senator
RONALDSON—Who do you report to?

Mr
Quilty—Dr
Burgess.

Senator
RONALDSON—Does Dr Burgess have
overall responsibility for government relations?

Mr
Quilty—I have
responsibility for government relations. He has responsibility for public policy
and communications.

Senator
RONALDSON—But you report to him,
so presumably he has overall responsibility for government
relations.

Mr
Quilty—That is right.

Senator
RONALDSON—When was Mr Burgess last in Canberra?

Senator
CONROY—He has had his passport
revoked for Canberra, Senator
Ronaldson!

Mr
Quilty—I am not
aware of the exact date of his last visit. I would have to take that on
notice.

Senator
RONALDSON—Do you know whether he has been here this
year?

Mr
Quilty—I think he
has, yes. He definitely has been here this year.

Senator
RONALDSON—Absolutely, yes, but I do not think you want me to reinforce
the point I made earlier on. He is the head of
government relations, he is a senior executive, he could well have been here.
What is his view on the
Australian parliamentary process and the Senate estimates process, do you know?
Does he hold it in contempt? Do you
know what his views are?

Mr
Quilty—Certainly not, nor does Telstra. In terms of the team that
Telstra has here today, it is exactly the same team we had here in
February. The only difference is that Mr Gration is on a course overseas; it is a
long course. As a result it was
decided that I would take his position; otherwise the team members are the same
as they were in
February.

Senator
RONALDSON—So Mr Burgess knows of the matters to be raised today.
According to you—and I will take it as a no—he does
not view with contempt the Senate estimates process. Why isn’t Mr Burgess here?

Mr
Quilty—Telstra
has taken a decision that I would lead the team and that, other than that, the
team would remain the same as that
which was here in February. We believe that we have the people here to
answer the questions you will
ask.

Senator
CONROY—Is there anybody here at the table with an American
accent?

Senator
COONAN—I am afraid
not.

And Telstra wonders why it has problems in
Canberra. Finally this
admonition:

Chair—Before you go I would like to just thank the witnesses for
Telstra for appearing, but on behalf of the committee I wish to put
it on the public record that the committee is very displeased about the failure
of Mr Burgess to appear
before the committee today and we would ask Mr Quilty to convey that to Mr
Burgess.

Peter Fray

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