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Nick Minchin

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Liberal Senator for South Australia
Nick Minchin


Senator the Hon Nick Minchin

PO BOX 2141
Kent Town SA 5071

36 Grenfell Street
Kent Town SA 5067

Phone: 08 8362 8600
Fax: 08 8362 8579
Toll Free: 1300 301 647
(Toll free in South Australia only,
for the cost of a local call

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 3004
Fax: 02 6277 5703

Monday, September 21, 2009 Printer Friendly Version

A major split has emerged between Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy over whether Telstra should be forced to divest its interests in Foxtel under Labor's plans to break up the company.

Shadow Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Nick Minchin said it was now clear Mr Tanner wanted to take a "hardline approach" in relation to Telstra's 50 per cent stake in Foxtel.

Mr Tanner told the Insiders program that the Keating Government made a "significant mistake" allowing Telstra into Foxtel as in many other countries the main competitor to the fixed line network was cable television.

"Here the same company owns both. That's been dreadful for competition. That's why we are keen to challenge that situation," Tanner said. He was then asked if he was confident he could separate the two he responded: "Oh absolutely".

In contrast, Senator Conroy told the Inside Business program that Telstra would be allowed to keep its Foxtel interests and the cable which delivers it "if we do receive an acceptable form of structural separation put forward by Telstra that the ACCC and myself tick off on".

Senator Minchin said a major split had clearly emerged between two of Laborís most senior Cabinet Ministers.

"Mr Tanner wants to take a hardline approach and wants to give Telstra no option but to divest its Foxtel interests, whereas Senator Conroy says there is still room for negotiation that would result in Telstra keeping both its pay television interest as well as its cable network," Senator Minchin said.

In the same interview Mr Tanner revealed the Government would use accounting trickery to hide the mountain of debt that will be required to fund its $43 billion NBN Mark II.

He said the Government equity in the project "may be not much more than a quarter of that $43 billion." "And of course, the [NBN] company as do other GBEs, government business enterprises, will borrow off its own balance sheet".

"Labor will try and pretend this is not Government debt, by loading the NBN company with a significant proportion of the debt that will be required to build this network," Senator Minchin said.

"This is nothing more than accounting trickery because the Government and ultimately taxpayers will own at least 51 per cent of this company," Senator Minchin said.

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