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Monday, 20 July 2020 10:07

Telstra logo on ASPI site: now you see it, now you don't

Telstra logo on ASPI site: now you see it, now you don't Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Mystery surrounds the fact that Telstra, one of the Australian corporations most concerned about its mentions in the media, did not notice that its name was mentioned by iTWire as a sponsor of the defence lobby group Australian Strategic Policy Institute on at least four occasions [1, 2, 3, 4] even though it had ended its sponsorship of the organisation at the end of June 2019.

Telstra only took note of the issue on 13 July when iTWire ran an article mentioning the fact that the company's logo had suddenly disappeared from the ASPI sponsors' page and got in touch with the organisation to find out why this had happened. On the same day, Independent senator Nick Xenophon had asked why Telstra was not coming under any questioning about its arrangements with ASPI

Xenophon raised this in connection with the fact that Telstra gets its 5G gear from a joint-venture arrangement between Ericsson and Panda Electronics, the latter being a firm that the US claims is either owned or controlled by the People's Liberation Army.

Given that ASPI has strongly criticised Huawei over allegations that it is spying for China, and not said a word about Telstra, Xenophon asked why ASPI had not criticised and inquired whether this could be because Telstra was a sponsor of the defence lobby group that styles itself as an independent non-partisan think-tank.

I have had dealings with Steve Carey, the general manager for media at Telstra, going back to 2002, and he has the sharpest pair of eyes in the PR business of anyone I have dealt with in three countries. He is better than a hawk. Hardly a word escapes his notice and he has often called up to ask me for very minor changes in articles during a former role I held as the technology editor for the online editions of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is not a slur on Carey; far from it, it is one characteristic that every good media manger _should_ have and I have no doubt that Carey's being in the role for 18 years at least is due to his very high level of competence.

Thus that the same Carey would have missed the mentions of Telstra as a sponsor of ASPI when it was not, is incomprehensible.

When ASPI was asked about the disappearing Telstra logo — which iTWire found had been pulled sometime between 19 May and 27 June — its events and communications manager Kelly Smith first said: "Thanks for getting in touch to clarify. I can confirm that Telstra is not a sponsor of ASPI." She did not specify when the association with Telstra had ended.

Later when iTWire raised the issue with Smith after Carey said the matter of the logo remaining on ASPI's site, beyond what he claimed was the end of the sponsorship, would have to be addressed by the lobby group, she suddenly remembered that the deal with Telstra had run from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019. As to how the Telstra logo remained on ASPI's site well beyond June 2019, she said nothing.

If iTWire is assiduous about checking sponsors, it is because one always needs to follow the money to know what drives an organisation. With that in mind, the ASPI sponsors page has been checked every time that one intends to publish that list of sponsors in an article.

I guess we'll have to add it to the list of unsolved mysteries like the Loch Ness monster and Big Foot. 

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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