full opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay
26 July 2013
opinion/analysis The Federal Government’s rollout of the National Broadband Network is the greatest show currently playing in Australia; with constant gaffes from high-profile politicians, a war of words that would make make toughened bikies wince and giant red buttons that set off fibre-optic fireworks, at times it has seemed that all the NBN needs to be a complete circus is a canned laugh track. But under the cover of this madness and media hype, there’s another high-wire act under way: The nation’s other telco monopolist, Telstra, is successfully concentrating its market power; and that’s not good news for anyone.
Many Australians will remember well the last parting words which outgoing Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo had for the nation, upon his departure from the role in mid-2009. Australia, Trujillo told the BBC at the time, was racist, backwards compared with other first-world countries such as the United States, and living here was altogether like “stepping back in time”.
At the time, Trujillo’s comments generated outrage from everyday Australians and prominent figures right around the country.
Coming from a more respected source, they might have been taken more seriously. After all, it’s true that Australia, as a nation, has at times struggled with not only our relationship with the first inhabitants of this great land, but also with the multicultural nature of our current society. One need only closely examine the fraught and ongoing debate about asylum seekers, or events such as the 2005 Cronulla riots, to find threads of racism woven throughout the proceedings.
Then, too, Trujillo’s own nationality — the executive is of Mexican stock but was born in the United States — was indeed raised as an issue during his four years in Australia from mid-2005. The then-Telstra CEO was caricatured constantly in the local media with Mexican stereotypes, and the cadre of executives which he brought in to reform Telstra’s operations were labelled “the amigos”. The final insult came when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, when asked to comment on Trujillo’s depature, responded curtly: “Adios”.
But an onlooker well-versed in Australian culture might also very likely observe that it wasn’t Trujillo’s heritage which earned him such levels of hostility from the Australian population. After all, Australia is a nation of individuals who claim backgrounds from countries all over the planet; we are truly multicultural, and generally accepting of difference. No, it was the arrogant way which Trujillo stewarded Telstra through those four years which earned him such censure.