Conroy flashes Telstra iPhone in Senate

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy flashed his Next G-connected iPhone in the Senate today to show the resilience of his carrier's share price.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy flashed his Next G-connected iPhone in the Senate today to show the resilience of Telstra's share price.

Conroy flashed the device when asked by Shadow Minister for Communications Nick Minchin about the damage to Telstra's share price after delivering news of his telecommunications reform, which would see Telstra split its retail from its wholesale arm.

Telstra (TLS:ASX) shares today rebounded after taking a short, sharp dive yesterday, hitting a four month low at $3.09. At the time of writing, Telstra's share price has returned to its $3.23, where it hovered around the time of Telstra's exclusion from the first NBN proposal.

ZDNet.com.au understands Conroy has had his iPhone for around a year, making it a 3G rather than the recently released 3G S. The iPhone's connectivity is provided by Conroy's department, Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy, which is believed to rely on Telstra's Next G network.

Conroy has previously aired his admiration for Apple's device, earlier this year calling it a "sexy gadget".

Minchin also asked Conroy today to "explain to the Senate the policy rationale for seeking to exclude Telstra from acquiring additional spectrum for advanced wireless broadband?"

Telstra's exclusion from bidding for spectrum was widely seen as the cruelest component of the proposed bill on the day that it was delivered news of its separated future. It's also the one thing that's likely to kick start Telstra's critical spending again, as it holds back from capital expenditure on new mobile network assets until the spectrum goes up for auction around 2012.

Conroy replied: "Because of policy failings of the two previous Governments, Telstra was allowed to become just about the most vertically integrated telco company in the world."

"We have said we will put a restriction on Telstra from moving into the next generation spectrum that will be available in the next few years to ensure that it will not dominate every single platform," Conroy said, adding that Australian consumers faced the slowest yet highest priced broadband compared to nearly anywhere else in the world.

Minchin went on to suggest that Telstra's exclusion from spectrum auctions devalued the government-owned asset; however Conroy pointed out that Telstra could buy it if it submitted to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission an undertaking to structurally separate.

Conroy said the premise of Minchin's question was "hypothetical" and "entirely flawed".

"Telstra can choose," said Conroy.

Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, who was recently criticised for Tweeting in Parliament, late yesterday Tweeted that "kevin wants you to invest in a 43bill nbn thought bubble", in an attempt to attack the government's separation plans.

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