Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Australia racist, backward: Sol Trujillo

Dan Warne

26 May 2009, 2:05 PM (8 days ago.)

Trujillo says "good riddance" to a country that he characterises as racist -- Kevin Rudd was even racist to him, he claims.

Sol Trujillo, speaking to the BBC this morning, and replayed on ABC Radio, says coming to Australia was like "stepping back in time", and he found himself surrounded by racist, backward people.

When asked his impressions of racism in Australia, Trujillo told BBC: "I think it was evident in a lot of ways with me personally."

He singled out Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for giving him a single word farewell -- "Adios". When asked by the BBC interviewer whether that was racist, Trujillo said: " I think by definition - there were even columnists who wrote stories that said it was."

"I would say that Australia definitely is different [from] the US. In many ways it was like stepping back in time,'' he said.

Trujillo quit his job early, jetting out of Australia and back to his US homeland six weeks before his publicly announced end-date of June 30th.

Trujillo said Australian people regularly approached him on the street and apologised for the behaviour of other Australians, who they were embarrassed by.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dismissed Trujillo's comments as "ridiculous", according to ABC Radio.

However, the opposition has latched onto the criticism, with Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin issuing a statement saying that "the regular references, by a variety of commentators, to Mr Trujillo’s Mexican background during his tenure in Australia were quite rude and uncalled for."

"In particular, the Prime Minister’s ‘adios’ remark upon Mr Trujillo’s departure was contemptuous, rude, sneering and entirely inappropriate for an Australian Prime Minister and former diplomat."

However, Minchin paid a rare compliment to the Rudd Government communication minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, saying, “In contrast, Senator Conroy was much more generous about Mr Trujillo’s contribution to Australia in his remarks at last week’s ATUG conference and set a far higher standard than Mr Rudd’s base remark.”

Trujillo, who was born in the United States, but of Mexican-immigrant parents, was frequently referred to in the media as one of the "three amigos", referring to him and his two American friends Greg Winn and Phil Burgess who played right-hand roles to him.

Parts of the media have been criticised for seizing on Trujillo's Mexican background in their portrayal of him. A Crikey piece by Stephen Downes looked at News Limited's portrayal of Trujillo as a donkey-riding gunslinger as being as bad as " drawing Marcia Hines eating watermelon and picking cotton because she’s African-American or former Ford CEO Jac Nasser as a kebab-eating Lebanese gang member because  — well, you know, ha ha ha  — that’s what THOSE people are really like."

However, Telstra has itself been involved in public comment focusing on the nationality of its critics. One of its corporate spokesmen wrote a blog about the Dutch-born telecommunications commentator Paul Budde, quoting him as saying: "nobody else in the world was doing it, ja?". Telstra eventually withdrew the posting from its blog.

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