Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

Telstra is an anti-Australian company.

Once upon a time in Australia, in other words back in the dark ages of the 20th century, large corporations and public utilities would invest in their staff through training as well as supporting future staff via the TAFE system. These companies sought to identify future skills that would be required due to technology advances, and via cadetships and apprenticeships they would plan sometimes up to twenty years in advance so as to make sure they would not be caught in a skills shortfall.

This investment in their future work forces was necessary due to the fact that the national interest and secure immigration policies ensured that the available labor market for Australian jobs could only be sourced with Australian citizens. As a result competition for workers with the required skills was sometimes fierce and this led to a natural increase in wages due to the forces of supply and demand.

Globalisation destroyed and warped this labor market. Now companies have no interest in planning for future skills shortages as they once did. They simply lobby governments to bring in overseas workers to fill the gaps which they themselves have created. The added bonus of bringing in thousands of overseas workers to fill jobs in Australia is that these companies can keep wages artificially low. There is no need to compete for local skilled workers when they can simply bring in masses of cheap foreigners desperate to work for peanuts in order to gain a foothold in Australia.

Telstra boss urges government to ease migration restrictions as it struggles to find skilled workers.

Telstra is turning to overseas markets for the talent it needs to propel its strategic overhaul, with CEO Andrew Penn saying that the federal government needs to widen the door to skilled migration.

Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) event in Melbourne, Mr Penn said that Telstra’s T22 strategic overhaul, which will see almost 9500 jobs lost, was forcing it to build new skills, like cybersecurity and software networking.

“We need these capabilities now, but the fact is we cannot find in Australia enough of the skills, like software engineers, that we need on the scale that we need them.”

“There simply are not enough of them, the pipeline is too small,” he said.

Mr Penn added that while immigration was a politically sensitive issue in Australia, an ongoing skilled migration policy is essential for Telstra and Australia.

“Immigration in Australia is an often vexed issue and attracts an enormous amount of political and media angst,” he said.

“In fact, it isn’t just an issue in Australia — in the US and the UK we are seeing significant negative commentary around immigration, I believe this is a unhealthy and potentially dangerous path for the world to take.”

“A well-targeted skilled migration policy is a job creator, not a job taker,” he said.

With the local skills shortage further compounded by the intense competition in the broader economy for technology talent, Mr Penn said Telstra had little choice other than to turn overseas.

“We are also competing for these skills domestically with other Australian organisations … that competition is fierce and it is estimated Australia will have a shortfall of 60,000 skilled workers in the ICT sector in the next five years.”

Telstra’s response to the shortfall has been to turn to other regions for recruitment, with the telco building a new innovation and capability centre in Bangalore, which will become operational later this year.

“Bangalore is India’s ‘Silicon Valley’ and even there we are competing for talent with the likes of Apple, Google and other digital companies,” Mr Penn said.

“This centre consolidates our presence in India where we already work with many partners and furthers in house talent we previously sourced from third parties.”

“It means we can quickly hire, develop and scale that talent across our business,” he added…

… “We are also competing for these skills domestically with other Australian organisations … that competition is fierce and it is estimated Australia will have a shortfall of 60,000 skilled workers in the ICT sector in the next five years.”

A quick translation of this passage goes something like this:

We need cheap Indian workers in Australia and we need them now.

So Telstra wants to sack 9500 Australian workers and bring in up to 60,000 Indians. To claim that this policy creates jobs is an unmitigated insult to Australian workers. Big businesses are now proactively involved in undermining the Australian national identity through their efforts to directly influence government immigration policies to their own commercial advantage. Apparently in the mind of UK born CEO Andrew Penn, what is good for Telstra is also automatically good for Australia.

But have no fear; Telstra is also working extremely hard with the local university system to employ local workers.

While recruiting talent from overseas provides a cost-effective fix for the telco, Mr Penn said that Telstra was committed to building partnerships in Australia to help develop more engineering talent.

“We are now establishing a partnership program with a small number of universities around developing specific capabilities.”

“We recently started to partner with the University of Wollongong on their new Global Leaders Development Program and have taken our first of their Big Data students as an intern, one of 80 students from around Australia who have been working with us over the summer,” he said.

One student from a single program plus 80 students who have been “working with them over the summer” which is globalisation-speak for free internships with no guaranteed job at the end of the process.

The rise of crony capitalism and the successful efforts of businesses to lobby governments for their own short term advantages is a national disgrace. Let us not also forget the suspiciously high number of former politicians with no business experience to speak of who manage to land themselves executive and board positions in these same companies after they depart politics.

With the added bonus of no official recession in Australia for almost 30 years due to the fudging of figures, manipulation of GDP and official interest rates, plus the good fortune to be on the receiving end of the China boom in 2008,  Australian companies have had little to no threat of upstart newcomers entering the market and threatening their positions. Recessions are a natural and healthy part of an economy because they clean out the dead wood and enable new businesses to gain a foothold. No recessions also mean no recoveries.

We don’t want overseas workers in Australia and we certainly do not want these foreign countries’ best and brightest. Why should we siphon off their best talent? How will countries like India ever reach a decent modern standard of living if we continue to poach their best people?

Australia needs a moratorium on immigration. Let’s start with the CEOs of these companies. Send Andrew Penn back to the UK and hire an Australia CEO who puts the needs of his country first. And after that you can send back the already thousands of Indian Telstra employees in Australia who have snuck in the back door via consultancy forms such as IBM and Infosys.

And if Telstra loses business due to its own ineptitude then so be it. The shortfall will be filled by new Australian companies eager to profit from Telstra’s mistakes while employing Australian citizens. A crazy little thing called innovation and competition.


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  1. TechieDude

    While I agree the US and Australia should clamp down immigration, I have a different view on this, being in Tech for 30 years or so. Even spending time as a vendor to an American version of Telstra.

    They are probably right, the talent isn’t out there in the scale they need. Look at what kids are studying in college now. Clue: It isn’t technology.

    Where I live we have a couple universities that have large corporate sponsors that use them as a farm team for talent. If you have decent SAT scores, maybe a few tech classes (and higher maths) in high school they will essentially pay for you to go to school. This happened to my son and a number of his friends.

    I think he’s the only one that wound up with a CS degree. The rest drifted off to other silliness because it’s work. His last team project at school is a great example of what I’ve seen over the years. – Two (my son was one) are smart, driven, inventive. They drive the project. Three can do the work they are asked, but lack self motivation. They have to be told what to do. and two were utterly useless. I told him that the best way to deal with numbskulls was to treat them as such, and give them menial tasks – get coffee, get donuts.

    Every one passed that course, even the retards.

    I might also add that the lions share of kids in that program were Asian and Indian.

    So I find it unsurprising Telstra is starved for talent. Slim pickings to be found from generation stupid.

    Another thought is that if they are like an american telco, there’s a huge portion of the company that is regulated as a utility and heavily unionized. The data side of the house (Which includes mobile) is not. As the old landline business dies on the vine they cull the union herd, and try to grow the unregulated, more profitable side.

    And a union dude, whose technical skills were frozen in amber decades ago isn’t going to “learn to code”. Saddest case in one of my classes (which are about software) was for a carrier like Telstra that tried to recycle outside plant dudes to supporting our product. They had no clue. Climbing poles and digging trenches for 20 years didn’t prepare them.

    They didn’t even own a computer at home. The only people I’ve met like that worked at carriers like Telstra.

    All that said, you don’t need to import team brown to code. They can do that anywhere, and you also can outsource it.

    • Jack Nickle

      The talent isn’t there because there is no training, support, or long term investment.

      The smart autodidacts who don’t need any help are all moving to the US for 3-5x more money.

    • Al Jahom

      I think what you call ‘generation stupid’ is actually ‘generation mollycoddled ladyboy’.

      Education can never keep up with technology – not with a hidebound education system that isn’t nimble and forward-looking enough to keep up with the pace of change. I walked into (and straight out of) a software engineering degree in the early 90’s that was teaching LISP and FORTRAN, and was never going to even look at C in the 4 years of the course.

      Tech will always need motivated self-starters, and that means people with hunger.

      I remember that when I wanted something as a geeky teenager, tech-wise, I had to dream it up and build it myself.. either because we couldn’t afford the hundreds of bucks or it didn’t exist yet.

      Not that many could have done that back then, but would I make the same effort if I were that age now, and I could just download an app for $1 made by someone in India onto the $800 iPad my parents had bought me to assuage their guilt at never being there for me as a kid?

  2. Al Jahom

    Am I imagining it, or did the ‘woke’ dog-on-a-string rabble of 20 years ago protest most vehemently against the globalisation that has allowed the world’s smelly people to move around the developed world freely?

    And were we on the libertarian right the ones who guffawed at these ‘insular, backward people who feared competition’?

    I think they did and I think we were.

    I’m still trying to fathom out how we got it so wrong, and how those who got it so right then utterly repudiate those same anti-globalisation tendencies today, as they have done in the Brexit debate.

  3. Dave

    As someone who went to Monash in Melbourne let me state the following personal observations:

    (1) In 90% of the subjects I took I was the ONLY white man and we are talking subject enrollments of approx 200 students or more.

    (2) The majority of the non-white students did poorly – just scraping through with a pass. The subjects were simplified down to cope.

    (3) In subjects where I had to work in groups of these individuals I had to carry the group work-wise unless I wanted a crap result.

    (4) I also noted there was exclusion towards myself – particularly from the Indianans, who often kept information from me and often spoke in their mother-tongue around me when we had to work on assignments.

    (5) Cheating is rife through Monash as it’s the only way they can pass – I’ve seen it personally.

    (6) I’ve heard stories from buddies in industry about Indian co-workers also keeping them in the dark and not letting them know the real state of a project, etc.

    • Al Jahom

      (6) is a fundamental cultural issue with teams in India. I’ve seen it time after time. They are terrified of telling the bald truth. The answer to ‘can it be done’ and ‘is it done?’ can never be ‘no’. Believe only what you can see with your own eyes.

  4. Neville

    Dated a bit now, but still .. I used to work (technical side) for Telecom Australia, as it was called before it got all ‘woke’ and ‘vibrant’ and ‘with it’.
    Telecom Australia was a service provider; “Telstra” if it was an individual person, is now a profit-seeking imbecile, a marketing man, a cool dude who wants to be seen as switched on and hip and (profitably) ‘part of the new Australia’.
    I don’t like it. For over 20 years now, I have studiously avoided having ANYthing to do with “Telstra”; I will not use its services, and I will not buy their ‘products’. It is simultaneously economically lazy, apathetic, smug, arrogant, and greedy. There are MANY phone/IT/service providers around – just pick one that provides decent service for your money. UNsurprisingly, they all rather tend to be owned by international companies, NOT Australian!!

  5. Post Alley Crackpot

    A while back someone suggested I give Paul Graham a read …

    He’s one of the people behind Y Combinator, a VC that works with certain types of tech startups, and he has plenty to say on various technical subjects involving code.

    But the ones I remember the best are these two:

    “Beating the averages” (on so-called “Blub” languages

    “Revenge of the nerds” (on the fall-out from using “Blub” languages as a cover-your-arsehole management strategy)

    These pieces are about fifteen years old, give or take a few years, but I see no reason for the essential truths to be all that different now versus then.

    What I have to wonder about is something very specific: are new programming languages being developed not to solve problems better for the highly capable, but instead to solve problems at all for the Dunning-Kruger “inappropriately included” crowd?

    Have “institutions of IT learning” actually solved the everyday problems they faced so well that they have enabled coding for people who really have no business doing it?

    And if that’s true, is Telstra really a symptom of a bigger problem in which there may be too many IT projects to get done unless they hire less competent people that they can put into group situations where they can act like one medium-competence programmer?

    More to the point, would you like not to work with these kinds of people?

    Start learning very, very hard things again, and start considering how you can form your own companies that solve problems very well, very quickly, and most importantly very intelligently.

    Because the alternative is always that you’ll have smart people trying to compete directly with masses of stupid people …

    That’s one of the biggest flaws of the human condition right there in a nutshell.

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