ASIC to investigate Future's Telstra sell off

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will investigate whether the Future Fund was "tipped off" over the plan to split Telstra.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will investigate whether the Future Fund was "tipped off" over the plan to split Telstra.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding today scored a popular goal, gaining the Senate's agreement to approve an investigation into the Future Fund's August sell-off of a third of its shares in Telstra.

"Why did the Future Fund decide to sell a huge chunk of its stake in Telstra only three and a half weeks before the Rudd Government made its announcement to break up Telstra?" Senator Fielding said in a statement today.

"Now I don't know if the Future Fund had any unfair advance notice or not, but there are certainly quite a few people out there who are sceptical."

Fielding is believed to have met with Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy prior to moving today's notice. The government did not attempt to block the motion in the Senate.

"Mum and dad investors have the right to know if the Future Fund had an unfair advantage beyond the knowledge that was already in the public domain," said Fielding.

"This inquiry is only fair to make sure all parties involved are squeaky clean and there was no funny business involved."

Whether the investigation will prove fruitful remains to be seen. Future Fund chief, Paul Costello last week faced a Senate Committee over the issue. Asked whether he knew about the separation deal and whether it was the basis for the Future Fund's decision, Costello said "it absolutely was a coincidence".

Former Howard government communications minister, Helen Coonan, said there appeared to be "an eerie silence on the part of the fund" regarding Telstra's separation.

Fielding and fellow independent Nick Xenophon are critical in the government's plan to have legislation to separate Telstra passed before the Christmas break. Both independents have expressed concern for so-called "mum and dad" investors.