Senate quizzes Telstra's search for directors

Telstra is looking offshore to fill three vacancies on its board.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan has admitted overseas experience is being sought to ensure the board is of the "highest calibre".

While refusing to pre-empt any decisions, Coonan told a Senate estimates committee hearing yesterday that international experience is appropriate although that doesn't necessarily mean an American will be appointed.

She was joined by Telstra company secretary, Douglas Gration who said it would be valuable to have someone with international experience on the board.

Since being appointed Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo, who is an Amercian, has appointed other countrymen including Greg Winn, as chief operations officer.

The telco was at the centre of plenty of parliamentary debate yesterday as Coonan was quizzed on a range of Telstra issues.

One issue that came up was an election promise in 2001 to deliver mobile phone coverage along all highways in Australia with claims that blackspots still existed.

However, Telstra wireless access services manager Max Jennings blamed a lack of cooperation from Vodafone.

Jennings said differences in technology with Vodafone and the cost of extending coverage made it unattractive for Telstra for take part in the highway scheme.

Coonan agreed to take another look at the issue in the near future and pointed out that the government has made available $30 million in an attempt to clean up blackspots.

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