Racism, Telstra & the truth

ABC News (AFP: William West)
ABC News (AFP: William West)

I read with interest the recent reporting and views expressed in response to Former Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo’s claim that Australia is a backward nation of racists.  This follows very quickly with the news of his sacking of over 8,000 employees and his “pocketing” of $31m.   In response we shout “how dare he?!”

But what is the real truth here?

Sol Trujillo is reporting his experience and was remunerated as per his contract.  The Telstra Board set the recruitment brief, the selection criteria, the contract of remuneration and the metrics that the remuneration was tied to.  Sol Trujillo did not “pocket” anything that was not determined by others. 

In relation to racism, unfortunately I have personally read, heard and seen too much evidence in support of Sol Trujillo’s views.  It is often subtle and not concrete, but it still persists.  And certainly some of the journalist reporting and quoting of our politicians regarding Sol over the past four years has clearly played on his Mexican heritage.

If we are honest with ourselves, can we really say we have not seen in businesses across Australia, in your local associations, in general banter when socializing, no evidence of racism?  And for that matter evidence of prejudice and ignorance about anything outside of the “vanilla” safe mould of the white, male, heterosexual businessman?  Are we really happy to allow the countless justification in blogs and articles that you have to see these racial jibes as “real Aussie humour” to prove that you are really “one of us”? Or just dismiss Sol’s views as “sour grapes”.

Clearly not everyone is racist, sexist or prejudiced and I include myself in that category.  But as a nation we have far to go before we can prove our fairness and embracement of equality.

Now I am a Telstra shareholder (fortunately it represents only a small percentage of our overall investments) and I see the need for education of the general public and the “mum & dad” investors that bought into Telstra when it floated under claims of great hopes, about Telstra’s corporate values, overall direction, competitive landscape and responsibilities to each stakeholder group.

If we are unhappy about Sol Trujillo’s remuneration, we should not be directing it to Sol, but rather questioning the Telstra Board.  What is the board’s position on executive remuneration?  What constitutes fair remuneration and performance earning hurdles? How is this balanced between the employees, customers and shareholder stakes in delivering on and rewarding their investment? We should also be requesting transparency of the current CEO and executive as to their plans for Telstra’s future.

The truth is often simple.  The process of rationalizing the truth is where it gets complex.

So I ask in all the media beat-up, as individuals we should search for the truth. And to direct your energies to the right issues.  








9 Replies to “Racism, Telstra & the truth”

  1. A great concise response that is very true. Racism, sexism and discrimination are alive and kicking in Australia at all levels!

  2. Brilliant. you should post this on all the Newspaper blog pages in response to many of the articles written today which have just taken a very one dimensional.. `How Dare He…’ approach.
    Keep them coming…x

  3. So extremely true.

    Myself and my family moved to Australia about 6 months ago and we have experienced first hand racism from some not all Australians. Australia is a beautiful country its a real shame these views out shine to countries real beauty.

  4. As an Englishman living in Australia I am often the target of comments in the name of “good ol’ Aussie banter”. I do not personally, however, consider this as racist, often it is a poor attempt at humour that more always seems to miss the mark.

    Now, I do not have to open a newspaper every morning and see myself parodied wearing a sombrero which I bet the first time was amusing, once. What Mr. Trujillo should have said is that elements of the media have a tendency to appear racist and are adept at sensationally stirring up sentiment that belongs in an era similar to “Life on Mars”.

    The media play such a significant role in shaping our attitudes and opinions, isn’t it time that they took a greater social responsibility not to ridicule our captains of industry? I readily accept that as the leader of a public company a CEO’s performance should be scrutinised by the press but this should not result in personal attacks on the individual’s ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, facial hair or hat choice. As you quite rightly point out, it is the shareholders who should be holding the Telstra Board to account for the CEO’s performance and remuneration.

  5. Emma, you’re on fire here. What you’ve really done, though, is probably expose how weak the standards of our commentators are.

  6. Very true. A lot of people think they’re not racist but actually are. Racist humour is disappointing in a school yard but pathetic in a corporate environment.

  7. Gee i wonder how all those employees feel about his comments!!!! and well done 2 u Emma well done!!!

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