Wednesday Grok: 99.4% approval in the People's Republic of Telstra

TLS shareholders get it. First State Super doesn't.

Telstra received a stunning 99.4 per cent (and rising) vote of approval for its NBN deal with the government. That tells us two things. Firstly, the government is paying too much. That's why they got knocked over in the stampede by TLS shareholders. And secondly, that the shareholder who suggested to Telstra’s board yesterday that the country was becoming increasingly like a third world dictatorship had no idea how ironic his comments really were.

The Fin Review reported that in response to the shareholder’s comment that “This is a democracy, it is not Iraq, it is not Libya”, Telstra chairperson Catherine Livingstone said Telstra had to deal with the policy of the day.

It was not recorded whether she was grinning like the Cheshire Cat when she said it, or whether she was able to keep a straight face at the thought of handing over the telco’s shrinking fixed line monopoly and its decaying copper network to the NBN, and getting a big fat cheque in return from the taxpayer.

Most reports yesterday referred to Livingston's remarks that if the structural separation deal got jerked around too much by the ACCC, shareholders would get another vote.

Of course she said it more politely and didn't speak to the downstream implications of such a development. After all, the threat of a joyride back to the drawing board with all that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt that would engender, kind of speaks for itself.

As Computerworld reported yesterday, “According to Livingstone, the Telco has continued to work closely with the ACCC to resolve the issues around the plan and would submit a revised SSU in coming weeks. ‘We continue to believe that none of the issues raised by the ACCC in relation to the SSU is insurmountable and that they can be resolved in a way consistent with our principle of protecting shareholder value,’ Livingstone said. However, should any material changes occur, shareholders will have the opportunity to consider the changes and vote.”

The deal, The Australian noted, received support prior to the vote from Telstra’s board, as well as any number of advisory firms and the Australian Shareholder Association.

It wasn't all NBN at the AGM though. CEO David Thodey spent some time talking about customer service.

According to the story, Thodey told investors, “Customer satisfaction is improving. Slowly but deliberately we are making progress,” he said. “I want to hear about complaints because if we don’t hear about complaints we can’t improve and it’s all about how you respond to a complaint. I’d love to not have as many [complaints] but at the same time, when you’ve got a complaint it’s about how you address it and move forward.”

Maybe Telstra could learn a few things about customer service from First State Super....

Customer service, super

...or maybe not. The SMH yesterday did a good job shanking superannuation outfit First State Super for its treatment of a customer named Patrick Webster, who by chance is also a security consultant. Webster pointed out a truly egregious security flaw in their system.

According to the story, which was originally broken by Risky.Biz, Webster was checking up on his superannuation details on the company's web site and noticed "that the URL contained the unique ID number for each account and by tweaking the number in the URL, he was able to easily access other people's statements.”

School boy error, lads.

After poking around about in the innards of a former co-worker's details, Webster wrote a script which “cycled through each ID and pulled down the relevant report.”

The script took just seconds to write, Webster told the Herald. He contacted the company and eventually got the IT department who he says were grateful for his help.

Now, you may recall from earlier posts that Grok has managed the odd IT department in his day and we felt viscerally ill reading this story and imagining one of our own staff coming to us with such a revelation. It is hard to describe the gratitude you would feel towards the customer who Saved. Your. Career.


Instead, for his trouble, Webster received not a bottle of fine champagne in appreciation of his efforts, or even a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. Rather, Mr Plod came calling, wishing to have a quick Rabbit and Pork in his King Lears about all those customer report downloads. Then Minter Ellison, First Super’s legal beagles, sent a rather unpleasant letter suggesting his action breached the Crime Act and that he may be liable for costs related to the consequences of his helpfulness. ( Shakespeare was right about lawyers, btw)

Ok, so Minter Ellison was just following instructions from the client. The police where just doing their job, and Webster, according to the Police, was just doing his civic duty.

And yet there’s a size 11 boot here looking for a butt to plant itself in, and let's face it, only one viable candidate remaining.

If you're First State Super about all you can do is hope to God this all just goes away quietly, and that people don’t copy this conveniently shortened link right here >>>> <<<< to their Twitter accounts and tweet, tweet, tweet the living beejesus out of it to demonstrate their dismay at the appalling manner in which the company treated this customer.

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Finally, some gold plated envy to kick-start the day. Mashable has put together an excellent infographic of the perks paid and provided to all those highly sought after high tech pointy heads by Silicon Valley's top employers. Print it out here and take it along to your next performance review. Unless you work for First State Super, of course.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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