The Australian government has finally approved the full sale of its 51.8% stake in Telstra, inviting international banks to underwrite the AUD32 billion (USD24 billion) sale. According to prime minister John Howard, the sale should go ahead by October or November 2006.
The privatisation of Telstra has been on the cards for several months, but has been opposed by the ruling National Party and the Australian public. One senator from the coalition National Party, Barnaby Joyce, threatened to vote against the sale if it did not include guarantees of service quality for rural users, prompting the government to offer AUD2 billion from the sale to be channelled into rural telephone services and a further AUD1.1 billion into broadband internet services nationwide. Even with Joyce on side, however, the government still has to convince the public; recent opinion polls revealed that around 70% of the population are opposed to the sale.