Telstra getting ready to fight TPG

Telstra says competition in the telecommunications sector remains tough and concedes it will probably lose customers to smaller rival TPG Telecom when the market newcomer establishes its own mobile phone network.

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Telstra chairman John Mullen says TPG is “a formidable operator”, and Telstra is not underestimating its impact on pricing and competition.

But, speaking at Telstra’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, Mr Mullen said Telstra will continue to invest in its mobile network to ensure that it remains superior.

Mr Mullen told shareholders that TPG is likely to chase customers at the price-sensitive lower end of the market.

“They will go for low-hanging fruit, which means that they will probably go for the large cities to start with – they’re a low-priced offering, so it will be a very different offering to Telstra,” Mr Mullen said.

“We do not intend to chase that down, we intend to promote the benefits of our network and the investment we make in superior service.

“But we have to be realistic: there will be people who will change for a large price discount.”

Mr Mullen said that for that reason Telstra had spent a lot of time on planning last month’s launch of Belong Mobile, which will offer broadband and mobile services at a cost structure and similar network coverage to what TPG offers.

“We believe with that we can bifurcate the market: we will stay and run the ship in the main premium end of the market, which is where we belong, but we will have the means to fight down below in that maybe 15 to 20 per cent of the market which will be very price-sensitive,” he said.

Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn told shareholders that the operating environment for telcos is challenging, with increased competition, digital disruption and the migration to NBN to be dealt with over the next two to three years.

Both Mr Mullen and Mr Penn said it was for those reasons that Telstra had decided to change its dividend policy, a decision which cost the board “many sleepless nights” because they realised it would be tough on shareholders.

One shareholder told the meeting that dividends were important because he gave all his dividends to poor people.

However shareholder questions on other issues outnumbered inquiries about the dividend policy.

Shareholder concerns voiced at the Melbourne meeting covered topics including how long it takes to pay a Telstra bill, why one regional customer can’t get mobile coverage unless they “stood by the chook shed”, why Telstra call centre staff have accents that are hard to understand, and what would happen to driverless cars in a telecommunications black spot.

Telstra has confirmed its guidance for 2017/18, saying it expects income in the range of $28.3 billion to $30.2 billion and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $10.7 billion to $11.2 billion.

Telstra shares ended Tuesday steady at $3.55.

Mehajer out of hospital after crash

Former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer will not face court on assault charges until early 2018 after presenting a medical certificate for injuries sustained in a car crash.

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Police prosecutor Amin Assaad on Tuesday said a police officer had made at least five unsuccessful attempts to contact the doctor named on Mehajer’s certificate.

But he nevertheless took the document at face value and didn’t oppose an application by Mehajer’s solicitor to vacate two separate hearings on assault charges.

“We can’t establish contact with that doctor,” the police prosecutor told Downing Centre Local Court.

“The number on the medical certificate is that same number that’s listed publicly. It’s probably a busy morning.”

Mehajer was due to face court on Monday in the first of two hearings this week for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver and a television journalist in separate incidents.

However, he was taken to hospital instead, after being involved in a crash on his way to court.

The 31-year-old is accused of throwing an eftpos machine at a taxi driver’s face and stealing his iPhone outside the Star Casino at Pyrmont in the early hours of April 2.

It’s separately alleged he later slammed a car door on the arm of a female journalist while he was leaving Day Street police station in a Porsche.

Mehajer also had two civil disputes listed in Sydney Local Court this week while an apprehended violence order application made on behalf of his estranged wife Aysha is scheduled for mention on November 1.

His solicitor, Mahmoud Abbas, told the court that Mehajer was discharged from Westmead Hospital after the crash on Monday night but he presented a medical certificate that covered his client until October 24.

One of the assault hearings has now been scheduled for two days from January 31 and the other has been set down for February 19.

Outside court, Mr Abbas said his client was “doing OK … he’s doing well”.

“I don’t wish to discuss the particulars of the injuries but they are severe, we do have medical documents,” he told reporters.

A NSW Police spokeswoman told AAP they are still investigating the circumstances of Monday’s crash.

Immune system could reawaken cancer cells

Cancer that comes back after treatment could be re-awakened by the body’s immune system, research suggests.

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The study found that normally beneficial immune system signals can be subverted by surviving cancer cells.

Instead of helping to fight cancer, they then promote its relapse and growth.

Immunotherapy treatments that target this response were shown in mice to delay or prevent cancer returning.

Professor Alan Melcher, from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our study finds the body’s own immune system seems to play a crucial role when cancer relapses.

“The immune system goes from keeping cancer cells in check to awakening and feeding residual cells, while turning a blind eye to their growth.

“Excitingly, many of the methods employed by treatment-resistant tumours to re-grow and hide from the immune system can be blocked using existing immunotherapies.

“This idea is, in fact, supported by emerging data from clinical trials, showing that immunotherapies can reduce the risk of cancers coming back.”

Co-author Professor Kevin Harrington, also from the The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “It is becoming increasing clear that the immune system is at the core of the puzzle of how we can treat cancer more effectively.

“This fascinating new study helps explain why sometimes a patient’s immune system can be effective against cancer cells while at other times it is not. It also shows there is a lot more to learn about the nature of those cancer cells that lie dormant as a way of resisting the killing effects of cancer treatments.”

The findings are reported in the journal Cancer Immunology Research.

Dropping CET will affect states: Qld govt

Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey says the federal government’s plan to abandon its clean energy target will negatively impact state governments in their transition to renewable energy sources.

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The Turnbull government on Tuesday revealed it would not go ahead with the clean energy target recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel under a new national energy guarantee that would start in 2020.

Mr Bailey accused the federal government of being in a state of “policy paralysis” over solutions to curb power prices, and said discarding the target would pose a significant challenge to national electricity market reforms.

“Scrapping the clean energy target will make it harder for the reform of a broken national electricity market and we are part of that market so yes, it will have an impact,” he told reporters.

“It will be better for electricity consumers right across the country, including in Queensland, if Canberra got its act together and started backing the cheapest, latest technology. That’s renewables and the transition to it.”

Mr Bailey accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of prioritising his own job security by bowing to pressure from conservative backbencher Tony Abbott over attempts to lower household electricity bills for consumers across the country.

“Malcolm Turnbull is only backing his own job because he’s afraid that Tony Abbott is breathing down his neck,” he said.

Mr Bailey declared Queensland’s Labor government would continue to enforce it’s own renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.

The federal government’s plan is slated to deliver electricity bill savings of at least $115 a year, but subsidies for renewable energy will be removed over time.

The announcement comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Monday revealed preliminary findings which showed power prices had risen by 63 per cent over the past decade.

The ACCC’s probe into the national energy market also estimated Queenslanders had paid the most for electricity in the 2016-17 financial year.

Key players react to Turnbull energy plan

KEY FIGURES WEIGHING IN ON THE PRIME MINISTER’S ENERGY PLAN

* POLITICS

“This energy policy is so half-baked it’s got salmonella.

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” – Tasmanian Labor MP Brian Mitchell.

“Good to see the Gov plans to scrap RET & CET like One Nation has been suggesting. About time they joined us in the 21st century.” – One Nation leader Pauline Hanson tweeted.

“The government’s energy policy is a direct attack on South Australian households & industry. More expensive bills with dirty power.” – South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

* INDUSTRY

“There are multiple ways of achieving a credible mechanism. I’m optimistic power bills will go down.” – Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

“The policy outlined by the federal government today removes the market distortions that can be the result of subsidising certain sectors.” – Steve Davies, chief executive of the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association.

“The guarantee will impose additional requirements on electricity retailers and generators, which need careful consideration.” – Matthew Warren, chief executive of the Australian Energy Council.

“Govt announcement an important step, keen to work together to make it work. With bipartisan support, it will provide investment certainty.” – Andy Vesey, chief executive of AGL Energy.

* BUSINESS

“The plan announced today by the government seeks to tick these boxes (lower prices, increased reliability, emissions targets).” – Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson.

“The plan gives the electricity sector a great deal of flexibility and it gives welcome recognition of the imperative of maintaining trade competitiveness for emissions-intensive industries.” – Innes Willox, chief executive of Australian Industry Group.

* ENVIRONMENT

“This is like doubling down on horse and carts despite the invention of motor vehicles.” – Climate Councillor Andrew Stock.

“We know we have to make the shift to clean energy – not delay that shift – which is what the policy does.” – Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy.

“What we’ve seen today is a clear policy announcement that stymies and stops the development of renewables and doesn’t do anything to address climate change.” – GetUp national director Paul Oosting.