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Australia backwards and racist, says Sol -

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Australia backwards and racist, says Sol

Reporter: Peter Ryan

PETER CAVE: There's been a muted reaction to comments from the former Telstra boss Sol Trujillo
that Australia is "racist and backward".

Few of Mr Trujillo's friends and foes would comment on the record about the complaint, with some
labelling the outburst as sour grapes.

Mr Trujillo was referring to comments made about his Hispanic background during his Telstra tenure
and media characterisations of being his being an "amigo".

Here's our business editor Peter Ryan.

PETER RYAN: During his time as Telstra's chief executive, much was made of Sol Trujillo's Hispanic
background, even though he's a first generation American.

He was constantly referred to as an "amigo" or one of the "three amigos" along with his two
American confidantes - the head of public policy Phil Burgess and the chief operations officer Greg
Winn.

The characterisations clearly hurt and speaking to a BBC interviewer in San Diego, Mr Trujillo said
they were unacceptable, and that elements of Australia were racist and backward.

SOL TRUJILLO: You know, many Australians have come up to me and they've apologised because they're
embarrassed by that kind of behaviour.

STEVE EVANS: Because I noticed reading papers the papers there, that when you were referred to they
would always point out that you were, had a Hispanic background or whatever.

In other words in Britain and in America it would have been neither here nor there; in Australia it
was invariably pointed out.

And the Prime Minister, when asked what his parting words to you would be said "adios".

Was that racism?

SOL TRUJILLO: I think by definition there were even columnists who wrote stories that said it was.

But you know, my point is that, you know, that does exist and it's got to change because the world
is full of a lot of people and most economies have to take advantage - including Australia - of a
diverse set of people.

And if there's a belief that only a certain people are acceptable versus others, that is a sad
state.

PETER RYAN: It's not the first time Sol Trujillo has raised the race card.

Speaking to AM in February last year, Mr Trujillo said he was troubled about the constant Hispanic
references.

SOL TRUJILLO: Well, I think they are unique. I don't think there would be references made like that
in most other countries and I have worked around the world.

PETER RYAN: But did you think those comments went against what might be your personal standards or
what the standards might be in the United States.

SOL TRUJILLO: Well, they clearly are not the same standards as in the US or Europe - you know I
have lived in France or the UK - but they are what they are here and you know, my view is people
should be judged on who they are, not where they come from.

PETER RYAN: Few of Sol Trujillo's friends or foes have bought into the issue.

The ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel and his predecessor Alan Fels were both unusually silent.

But a long time critic, the telecommunications analyst Paul Budde, believes Sol Trujillo was happy
to call himself an amigo.

PAUL BUDDE: Very early in his reign, he actually made that comment and he, you know in quite a
funny way he was talking about it. I honestly believe it never was taken in any negative racial
context. You know it was just a funny story at the time.

PETER RYAN: But "three amigos" was a consistent message in the media and also in business and in
politics and remember the Prime Minister said "adios". Do you think we are all being just a bit too
sensitive about this?

PAUL BUDDE: We don't have to be oversensitive in a situation like that. True, Sol Trujillo has been
an extremely controversial person and obviously that whole situation with the "amigos" had been
continued but you know, it had more to do with the close knit sort of American management
relationship that was established by Sol Trujillo you know, that basically operated outside the
management of the existing, call it native, Australian management .

PETER RYAN: The World Today sought a range of legal opinions on Mr Trujillo's racist claims but
none were forthcoming.

And the Human Right Commission which covers all areas of discrimination declined to comment on Mr
Trujillo's complaints.

PETER CAVE: Our business editor, Peter Ryan.