Was Damaging Telstra Report Deliberately Leaked?

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Senior Liberal Party politicians are today speculating as to whether a confidential report containing potentially damaging and embarrassing details about Telstra was deliberately leaked by executives in Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s office in an effort to undermine Telstra.

The report, about the proposed $43 billion National Broadband Network which was “accidentally” released by Conroy’s office, reveals confidential information on Telstra’s operations, market position as well as weaknesses.


The Federal Opposition says the Government has compromised negotiations on the break-up of Telstra by mistakenly revealing commercially sensitive information.

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When the Government tabled a document relating to its national broadband network proposal, it was supposed to black out a confidential analysis of Telstra’s core assets.

But the figures were left in and showed valuations ranging between $8 billion and $33 billion.

The Opposition’s communications spokesman, Nick Minchin, says the revelations bring private discussion between Telstra and the Government out into the public domain.
“I mean this is incompetence on a grand scale,” he said in Parliament earlier today.

Conroy who wants to break up Telstra has been accused of trying to disadvantage Telstra shareholders in an effort to succeed with his version of the proposed National Broadband Network.

Last Monday after Telstra CEO David Thodey made a flying visit to Canberra, to meet with Liberal and Independent Senators several Canberra politicians indicated that they were reluctant to rush through proposed amendments that Conroy is pushing for after a backlash from Telstra shareholders.   

A senior executive in the liberal party said today “It is highly possible that this report was deliberately leaked”.

This information goes to the heart of confidential negotiations and Senator Conroy has released terms of those negotiations in the public arena further jeopardising this entire process,” Senator Minchin said.

The report, written by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in January 2009, is an assessment of proposals for building the next-generation broadband network.

The report has the potential to weaken Telstra’s position in future negotiations analysts claim.
 
The Sydney Morning Herald said that in a further gaffe, the most sensitive information in the 252-page document is highlighted in yellow. This was presumably to make it easier to censor the information but instead has allowed Telstra’s competitors and detractors to skip to the juiciest details.

Furthermore, many of the pages in the report, tabled in the Senate yesterday, are labelled “confidential” and are meant only for individuals with “National Broadband Network probity clearance”.

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