Return of the Aussie überLuddite

Richard Alston in frame for Telstra chair

It's official: former Australian communications minister Richard Alston is in the frame to take the helm at Telstra - the Aussie telco giant left adrift after the shock resignation on Wednesday of chairman Bob Mansfield.

Mansfield jumped ship after months of acrimonious boardroom infighting provoked by the leak earlier this year of Telstra's top-secret plan to acquire newspaper publisher John Fairfax. He said that "the board no longer operated effectively and the chairman must accept responsibility".

With regard to Mansfield's replacement, Prime minister John Howard amazed many Australians when he confirmed in a radio interview that Alston - recently retired after 17 years tirelessly serving the Australian people - "could be considered as a candidate for the job of Telstra's new chairman".

And why not? After all, Alston has been heralded across the Lucky Country as a tireless champion of new technology. He is the man who tried to ban online gambling, attempted to make forwarding emails a capital offence, blamed South Koreans' love of porn for that country's enthusiastic adoption of broadband, and sensationally spunked AU$4m on The Department of Communications, IT and the Arts website, bringing the stunning piece of work in a mere AU$3.4m over budget.

Not, it must be said, the most glowingly techno-friendly CV from the man dubbed the "World's Greatest Luddite".

Still, Alston does have one thing in his favour. In 2003 he displayed distinct anti-Luddite tendencies when he accepted a free wide-screen Plasma TV - worth AU$10,000 from - you guessed it - Telstra. Good on yer, mate. ®

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