Any suggestion that Telstra’s revolutionary Nowwearetalking.com.au website would be closed down as part of the T3 muzzle agreement has fast disappeared.

The Australian’s Michael Sainsbury, arguably Helen Coonan’s biggest supporter in the media and the son of former Federal NSW Liberal MP Murray Sainsbury, has explained the situation nicely today as follows:

The Government’s Faustian pact with Telstra already looks like a dud deal. In return for a gag on Telstra’s biggest mouth amigo, Phil Burgess, the Government would flog $8 billion of its shares in the company. But on Monday Telstra chief Sol Trujillo hit out at “value-destroying” regulations as the company prepared for an ugly court battle with competition czar Graeme Samuel.

It also seems the Government forgot to get some agreement on Burgess’s provocative anti-regulation website Now We Are Talking. The website is run by long-time Telstra PR Rod Bruem, a former Liberal Party staffer (like so many of the company’s PR team) and one-time weatherman in the regional NSW town of Orange. The site’s hot topic yesterday was: “Is the current regulatory regime stifling the industry and disadvantaging consumers?”

Bruem has also used the site to lay into most of the country’s telecommunications journalists and leading media organisations, bringing a new meaning to “media relations” and earning him the nickname Bruem Hilda, the wicked witch of the web.

Sainsbury has copped plenty on the website and is clearly engaging in some journalistic payback. However, Bruem is certainly as combative as they come, as this recent spray at supposedly “independent” telco analyst Paul Budde demonstrates. The 13 comments from readers are also worth a look.

None of this will help persuade mums and dads to part with their hard-earned coin to buy into T3 – but why on earth should Telstra suddenly say nothing about a regulatory system which has started driving profits down?

Peter Fray

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