Good to see some diversity in News Ltd’s national rag The Australian on the issue of telecommunications, Telstra and the federal government.
There was national affairs writer Jennifer Hewitt flogging the old Telstra board line (i.e. Sol Trujillo’s) with this story, based on a briefing given in Sydney by Fabulous Phil Burgess, Sol’s blowhard mouthpiece:
A group of Telstra’s biggest institutional shareholders has called on the board to explain the “draconian nature” of the federal government’s proposed Telstra legislation and reminded directors of their fiduciary responsibility to investors.
The hostility from large fund managers will deeply embarrass the government, which is trying to sell its plans as a “win-win” for Telstra shareholders, consumers and taxpayers.
It will also put pressure on the Telstra board, which has been deliberately muted in its reaction, saying only it is “disappointed” by the government’s decision and will work to find a solution.
In contrast, eight of the largest institutional shareholders — Investors Mutual, 452 Capital, BT, Lazard, Maple Brown Abbott, Orion, Tyndall and Cannae — are so concerned about the impact of the government moves that they held a meeting yesterday with Telstra’s former head of public affairs, Phil Burgess.
Not a mention anywhere in the story about the way Phil and Sol led Telstra into a headlong and fruitless confrontation with the federal government and how the board paid Sol millions of dollars a year to hurt the company’s reputation with everyone.
By the way, the same group of “activist” shareholders sat on their hands and didn’t protest or attempt to censure the old Telstra board over the appalling management of the company by Mr Trujillo and his chairman, the now-departed Donald McGauchie.
But for a more accurate take on the worth of Burgess, read this morning’s John Durie column in The Australian‘s business pages.
Here’s what he said about Fabulous Phil:
Just why is everyone so excited to learn about former Telstra government affairs boss Phil Burgess’s views on the government’s telecommunications policy? As the architect of one of the singularly most ineffective government affairs strategies in recent Australian corporate history, his views are well known and in the present context irrelevant.
Before his tour of duty in Australia, Burgess at one stage, of course, worked for a think tank, funded in part by Sol Trujillo’s old company US West, so the policy was well established. But it’s a bit like gathering to hear how Mick Malthouse planned to take Collingwood to the grand final.
Somehow that rings truer than a bunch of slow-witted Sydney institutions who have suddenly discovered their “activist” role in Telstra, after doing nothing for years.