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How to run a chook raffle, Telstra-style

Telstra executive Phil Burgess needs to take another look at his dictionary of Australian slang.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

When an irate Telstra shareholder accused the giant's executive team of not even being able to run a chook raffle at the telco's October AGM, it appears I wasn't the only person to take notice.

Telstra's group managing director, public policy and communications Phil Burgess made the attack an issue in a recent speech (PDF).

      Phil Burgess

"I remember my first AGM since joining Telstra," the executive reminisced to a meeting of the Chartered Secretaries of Australia in the early days of April.

"I have to say that some of our shareholders expressed displeasure with the falling value of their shares," continued Burgess.

"Indeed, one intense, sincere, articulate and highly-animated woman was not too keen on the activities of the management or the oversight of the directors either."

"At the end of a heated denunciation she said: 'You blokes couldn't sell tickets to a chook raffle.'"

Having just been recruited from a post in the United States for the Telstra job, it is perhaps understandable that Burgess had to consult, as he put it, his "little blue book called Aussie Slang" for the meaning of the chook raffle reference.

But I have to differ with his memory of the exact wording of the Telstra shareholder's comments given that I was also at the Telstra AGM.

You see Phil, rather than selling tickets, the actual quote is:

"We have had it with you people, you couldn't even run a chook raffle."

The best online definition I've found of this phrase comes from Tildy Wilson's excellent glossary:

"In rural Australia it's common to run lotteries at the local pubs, and the prize might easily be a roasting chicken. Country pub raffles are so common that most Australians could carry out such a task with their eyes closed, so to suggest that someone couldn't run a chook raffle is akin to saying they're useless."

Now most Australians would probably agree that it's great we have as much international talent working in Australia as we do. Americans are certainly welcome.

But Phil -- get the slang right, would you?

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