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Two headlines over the last week accusing Australia of being racist. Or at least, lots of Australians.

The first accusation came from Sol Trujillo. Sol  was employed to run Australia’s largest telco. He liked to think of himself as a rebel, encountering resistance at every turn from shareholders, employees and government. Telstra’s share price dived during his incumbency, but he left with a pay packet of $31 million for four years of work. That includes $3 million paid to encourage him to leave early.

Here’s a bit more from the Daily Telegraph:

Trujillo was always at war with the regulators and the Government. He cut more than 8000 jobs in three years and complaints surged almost 250 per cent. And he earned huge sums of cash from shareholders but purchased almost no shares.

When Telstra announced in February this year that Mr Trujillo intended to leave, the company said he would work until June 30. But by terminating his employment during the notice period, not only does Mr Trujillo bring to an early end what presently appears to be the biggest failure of his career, he also increases the size of his payout.

That’s because Telstra is obliged to pay him an additional $3 million severance if he leaves before he completed his notice period.

The fact is, Sol Turjillo was a dud, who could not adapt to life in Australia and did not have the personal or business skills to lead a major corporation. He wanted to be seen as a creative leader, but could not accept advice or creative ideas from others.

Blaming his massive failure at Telstra on a racist culture is nonsense, a pathetic excuse which is unfair to workers and to Telstra shareholders, who employed him and gave him a huge paycheck for stuffing up one of Australia’s biggest companies.

The second accusation came from India’s High Commissioner to Australia. A number of Indian students have been attacked in Australia over the last few weeks.

It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for India to be concerned about the safety of Indian students living in Australia.

But why leap to the conclusion that such attacks are racially motivated?

A senior Victoria police officer said last night that Indian students tended to travel alone, and to carry expensive items like laptop computers and ipods, making attractive and vulnerable targets. That sounds like nonsense to me.

But at least two questions need to be answered before racism is even considered as a possible factor.

First, are Indian students victims of robbery or violence more often than anyone else as a proportion of the population?  Sadly, there are criminals in Australia, just as there are in every country. Any violent crime should be taken seriously. But if Indian students are no more likely to be attacked or robbed than anyone else, the problem is not racism, but law enforcement in general.

Secondly, if Indian students are victims of crime more frequently than other groups as a proportion of population, who is doing the attacking, and why?

I do not doubt that there are racists in Australia. I have seen aboriginal students throwing stones at Sudanese refugees, for example, and ‘youths of middle eastern’ appearance taunting chinese students. I have even heard white people make critical remarks about the fecklessness of some aboriginals, or the number of unassimilated immigrants.

But to claim first up, and without any evidence, that racism by whites is the reason for crime, or for people disagreeing with you, seems to me to be racist in itself. The underlying assumptions are that whitey can’t be trusted, or whitey is stupid, or whitey hates eveyone else.

Those assumptions are racist.

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