Sol Trujillo, the United States-born son of Mexican immigrants, was Telstra’s CEO in the last four years.
His tenure was marked by years of tussling with the Australian government over what he called excessive regulation.
It was also marked by the regular references by a variety of commentators to Trujillo’s Mexican background – something quite rude and uncalled for.
In the BBC interview after his recent resignation, Trujillo was asked if there was racism in Australia. “I think it was evident in a lot of ways with me personally but more importantly with others,” he replied. He went on to say: “I would say that Australia definitely is different from the US. In many ways it was like stepping back in time.”
Aussies were outraged. Trujillo was portrayed in newspaper cartoons as a sombrero-wearing Mexican – sometimes with saddlebags full of loot – and he and two US-based executives he brought into the company were labeled “the three amigos”.
His plan to leave the company was greeted with one word by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: “Adios” – a remark considered contemptuous, rude, sneering and entirely inappropriate for an Australian prime minister and former diplomat.
In a separate development, On May 29, India summoned Australia’s top envoy to express its concerns about a wave of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne that has raised diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had urged Australia to ensure there was no recurrence of such events. The attacks on students from the subcontinent have been occurring for more than a year.
But they came into sharp focus recently when student Sravan Kumar Theerthala was left in a coma and fighting for his life after being stabbed with a screwdriver by gatecrashers at a party. A 17-year-old boy has been charged with attempted murder.
The attacks have caused outrage in India, with the media dubbing Australia a “racist” country and newly appointed External Affairs Minister SM Krishna saying he was “appalled” by the violence.
Police estimate Indians make up 30 per cent of robbery victims in Melbourne’s western suburbs, where many of the students live.
There are 97,000 Indian students in Australia, boosting an international education sector that is the country’s third-largest export earner, reaping A$15.5 billion in 2008. (Australia has half a million foreign students.)