Australian telecommunication giant Telstra’s decision to buy Digicel Pacific is tainted with Australian government involvement.
There is clearly strategic geopolitical interests at play here since Telstra will only be paying US$270 million if the sale goes through, only a very small percentage of the purchase price of US$1.6 billion.
That is a lot of Australian taxpayers’ money and while it is entirely their business, such spending must raise our antennas in Papua New Guinea.
Digicel has a lucrative niche carved out in the Pacific, even if the global business weighed down by debt, but I do not think money is of prime concern here.
It is the regional mobile telephone network and traffic that is important.
If the mobile telephony business is considered of strategic geopolitical interest by Australia and China, why should it not be our concern also?
Why should it not be PNG’s concern to protect all strategic businesses and assets in the country?
This is something I have been talking about for a long time – the need to protect our strategic assets and interests.
Telecommunications and information is a strategic business and asset.
We found out how crucial security of our IT system is when hackers locked out the entire financial management system last week.
I have been warning of this for months. The hacking is what we know of. How much else is just leaving our system through open doors, we can never know.
It is time to identify our strategic assets and businesses and protect them by law.
Ownership of strategic assets must never be controlled by foreign interests. Where they must be placed in foreign interests for reasons of capacity such as with the hydrocarbon industry oil, the ownership must be sufficiently diluted so as not to place controlling interest in one foreign entity.
Energy is a strategic business and asset and we have vast reserves of oil and gas and sufficient water, geothermal regions, wind and the sun all year round. We must protect them and ensure that is captured well in the Organic laws currently before Parliament on Oil and Gas and Minerals.
Precious metals refining and trading is another strategic asset and business we have to protect. A deal currently being brokered through Cabinet to place such business in a foreign Singapore based business is scandalous and I shall be lifting the lid on this shoddy affair next.
Other strategic assets and business including our biodiversity, our oceanic resources and space and our cultural and natural heritages must be protected.
Finally, back on the Digicel/Telstra deal, I call on the Australian government to inform PNG on the reasons why it is footing the bill for this bid.
It does own Telstra but the company is large enough and does not need Federal funding if there were not State interests in it.
If the sale proceeds without adequate consultation we reserve the right to refuse the deal to conclude on our soil. I call on NICTA and ICCC not to approve the sale unless we can be guaranteed that our Digicel employees, our use of Digicel towers and other matters can be discussed and guaranteed.
Digicel has been given spectrum rights in all the prime frequency bands. Those spectrum rights have been granted on administrative basis and do not include the right to trade spectrum.
The spectrum rights are the property of the people of Papua New Guinea and must be returned to the people.
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