planet logo        
Find archived articles
WWW PlaNet


0800 752638

Planet Communications— delivering socially and environmentally conscious internet and media services since 1992.



PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 14-9-06

Telcos Want Democracy - In Name Only
By Alan Marston. September 14, 2006 Photo shows Allan Freeth
The 1960’s upped-the-system, rocking corporate-military-state rule to its
core. The latter responded in the 70’s with an epic combination of
violence, propaganda and media control that continues to this day as the
primary means of enthronement for the ancient god of greed, Mamon, and
suppression of any public tendencies to practise the current rival,
Where traces of hard won democracy and public control of commerce and
politics still exist the knights of industry ride forth to crush it
without mercy. Both this site and PlaNet TV proclaim their preference for
democracy rules over money-rules in public affairs by openly opposing the
latter and all its adherents while supporting the former. It is in that
line that the true colours of Telstra and Vodafone need to be painted
large, deep blue. The anti-democratic nature of Telecom having finally
become perceived wisdom.
Vodafone’s public policy manager Hayden Glass has openly called on the
Government to rein in the growing power of the Commerce Commission by
enforcing a strict "merits review" of the regulatory watchdog. This `call’
is not a tuneful ode to democracy and public good its a war-cry by a
corporate warrior to kill a defender of the body politic and the public it
is there to defend.
Telstra CEO Allan Freeth is more subtle and to my mind cowardly when on
the same day as Vodafone’s call to arms he labelled himself the “voice of
reason” by lining up with Telecom, another well-known voice of reason…
LOL, on the issue of government regulation as one of the few expressions
of power for public good still standing in the `global economy’.
The telcos were yesterday presenting oral submissions on the Government's
unbundling legislation - the Telecommunications Amendment Bill - to
Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee.
The bill changed the status of the commission from an industry dispute
resolution service to a significantly more powerful regulator, said
Vodafone public policy manager Hayden Glass. "It seems dangerous that
there is no one in the whole process who checks to see if the work of the
commission is correct." Translation; there is a lessening of corporate
oversight over government. The assumption being – since the 1980’s
monetary counter-revolution – that corporations are the ultimate source of
absolute knowledge as to good and evil.
Democracy is a good when talked about and an evil when practised. Eg.,
Vodafone wants the ability to do commercial deals with its wholesale
customers and not be `bogged down’ by regulatory process. It is proposing
that all regulatory decisions expire after five years. "Regulatory
decisions should be rolled back once competition is strong enough to be
self-sustaining." Competition, oh yes, a well-known attribute of
industrial monopolies...
And then the WMA of every CEO, the bill did not encourage operators to
invest in competing infrastructure either, said Glass. In short, tow the
line or we’ll starve you out of your democracy. The line used by Michael
Stiassny a few weeks ago in respect of electrical supply. Its an old
threat, the seige, but it still packs a punch.
Vodafone played bad cop, then came the good cop. "We are not going to
engage in any emotional criticism ... we have had the experience of good
commercial outcomes with Telecom," said Telstra chief executive Allan
Freeth. "It's just absolutely essential to make this regime work and that
Telecom has the incentives to invest." The Commerce Commission should not
be able to set the price of any commercial deals, said Freeth. "Telecom
should have the right to price and get the right rate of return for
services it provides."
Freeth supported the legislation proposal that accounting separation of
Telecom - the public disclosure of accounts - should be compulsory
(talking about democracy), but he opposed separation of Telecom into two
companies, with different chief executives - called structural separation
(practising democracy).
The committee heard the last of the planned submissions yesterday, but may
schedule more hearings if it needs to be massaged abit more. The
legislation is expected to be finalised by the end of the year. Will Mamon
win again over the tender flower of our `Democracy’? Probably.