Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Migrants don't know how to wear deodorant or queue up, says Liberal Teresa Gambaro

MIGRANTS should be taught about the importance of wearing deodorant and waiting in queues without pushing in, the Federal Opposition says.

Cultural awareness training should also be given by employers bringing skilled migrants into Australia under the 457 visa program, the coalition's citizenship spokeswoman Teresa Gambaro told The Australian.

In an interview with the newspaper, Ms Gambaro said she was concerned about new migrants on work visas not integrating into the community because Australia had failed to teach them about cultural issues related to health, hygiene and lifestyle.

"Without trying to be offensive, we are talking about hygiene and what is an acceptable norm in this country when you are working closely with other co-workers," she said.

Wearing deodorant and waiting in line politely were about "teaching what are norms in Australia".

The MP for Brisbane said while her comments may upset people, migrants also needed to be educated about their rights and how to improve their chances of getting work.


Boatful of Sri Lankan "asylum seekers" adds to Australian concerns

One of three asylum-seeker boats to arrive in Australia since the start of this year is met by authorities at Christmas Island at the weekend. Picture: Scott Fisher Source: The Australian
THE interception by the Sri Lankan navy of a group of asylum-seekers bound for Australia has heightened concerns that Indonesia's plans to relax its visa restrictions could lead to a sharp spike in the number of boatpeople attempting the hazardous journey.

Last Friday, a group of 22 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers preparing to travel to Australia via Indonesia was intercepted by the Sri Lankan navy before they left the port city of Tangalle.

The group's thwarted bid came just days after Indonesia announced plans to relax visa restrictions on citizens from several countries, including Sri Lanka.

The number of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers arriving in Australia has declined over the past year, but in announcing an easing of the visa requirements last week, Indonesia's director-general of immigration with the Law and Human Rights Ministry, Bambang Irawan, conceded the new plan could lead to a surge in asylum-seeker traffic to Australia.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the Gillard government said Australia was engaged in discussions with Indonesian authorities about the planned changes to the country's visa requirements.
"Australia and Indonesia are committed to working together and with other source, transit and destination countries to develop regional solutions," the spokeswoman said.

"The government will continue to monitor the visa arrangements and their impact, and will work with Indonesia to address any issues that arise."

While the federal government has so far refused to speculate directly on Indonesian policy, Tony Abbott last week expressed his concern about the mooted changes to the visa requirements and the consequences for Australia. "Obviously, nearly all of the boats come from Indonesia and if potential boat arrivals can more easily enter Indonesia, there is potential for a problem."

"I don't believe that now is the time to be critical of Indonesia. It is the Australian government which has really fallen down on the job here," the Opposition Leader said.

In December, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd sat down with their counterparts Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop in a bid to reach a compromise on offshore processing policy. Those discussions are said to be "ongoing".

The interception of the Sri Lankan vessel and the arrival of three asylum-seeker boats in the first week of this year has accentuated the urgency of the issue.

On Saturday, a boat carrying 119 suspected asylum-seekers and two crew was intercepted off the West Australian coast.

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said the third arrival in a week was evidence the people-smuggler trade was not slowing. "Labor must show some resolve, end their arms-wide-open policy and stop encouraging people-smugglers by taking away the product they have to sell," Mr Keenan said.


Penalty rates under fire from celebrity chef

CELEBRITY chef George Calombaris has entered the industrial relations debate, slamming as uneconomical penalty rates faced by restaurateurs under the federal Fair Work Act.

Calombaris, who stars in the high-rating MasterChef TV show, has complained about the rates he will have to pay staff at his new Melbourne pasta bar, due to open this month, claiming it is up to $40 an hour per worker on Sundays.

"And it's not like they've had to go to uni for 15 years," he told the Power Index website yesterday. "The problem is that wages on public holidays and weekend greatly exceed the opportunity for profit. So our labour laws are something that need to be looked at." The cost of eating out in Australia was expensive because of the workplace relations regime, Calombaris said.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten disagrees with Calombaris on penalty rates. "If George wants to bargain with his workers and improve productivity and be even more competitive, then the tools exist in our present workplace system," the website, which is owned by publisher Eric Beecher's Private Media Pty Ltd, cited him as saying.

"Penalty rates compensate wait staff and others who have to work late nights, public holidays and weekends while everyone else gets to spend this time with family and friends. "The Gillard government won't be adopting the low road of paying already low-paid workers less."

But Institute of Public Affairs work reform director John Lloyd said Mr Shorten and the unions should be listening to Calombaris' concerns because he joined a growing list of restaurant owners warning penalty rates could force restaurant closures and job losses.

"Under the current system the penalty rates are underpinned by an award and basically set in concrete," Mr Lloyd said in a statement. "The Rudd/Gillard workplace relations system has imposed a rigid set of rules."

Small businesses were opting out of genuine bargaining with their employees, with initiatives offering growth to businesses and job security for employees not being pursued, Mr Lloyd said.

Mr Lloyd said that while unions offered platitudes about enterprise bargaining, in practice they would not even entertain the slightest reduction in agreement or award terms.

He said the review of the Fair Work Act was too modest. The review is set to be completed and handed to the government by an independent panel in May.


Shackle the free press? Crikey, it just doesn't bear thinking about

Gerard Henderson

As the saying goes: "Can you bear it?" In much of the Western world, the established media is under threat from social media. It is at this time that some who once benefited from old media become critical of all journalism.

Take the Crikey publisher, Eric Beecher, who is a former newspaper editor. In his submission to the independent media inquiry, headed by Ray Finkelstein, QC, Beecher declared that there was not enough focus on "quality journalism" in Australia, which he regards as central to "civilised society".

All well and good. Except for the fact Beecher's Crikey newsletter is not the embodiment of quality journalism. For starters, it does not engage a fact-checker. Indeed, the online publication actually proclaims the fact it publishes undocumented "tips and rumours". Crikey also, on occasions, publishes the home addresses of people who are targets of its occasional contributors.
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Last month, Crikey reported on my (alleged) poor behaviour while attending an ABC TV pre-record function in Sydney. I was in Washington DC at the time. On another occasion, Crikey published an article by Mark Latham containing my home address. Both pieces were followed by after-the-event apologies. Neither would have got through in the first instance if Crikey had proper editorial checking. Yet Beecher sees fit to call for more government regulation of the print media and to lecture-at-large about quality journalism.

Then there is Latham himself. The former Labor leader has lodged a complaint with the Press Council concerning recent reports in The Sunday Telegraph about his behaviour at a public school swimming program in Camden. The newspaper reported he vehemently criticised Bev Waugh, mother of the cricketers Steve and Mark Waugh, about the program.

These days Latham apparently believes he is a victim of media intrusion and that his utterances in public places should not be reported. If the Press Council upholds this complaint, media freedom will be severely curtailed. Latham is a columnist with The Spectator Australia and The Australian Financial Review and appears as a commentator on Sky News (part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd). In addition, Latham receives an indexed superannuation benefit of around $75,000 a year, due to his time as a federal parliamentarian. In other words, he is the beneficiary of taxpayer funding.

As the Transport Workers Union official Wayne Forno pointed out in the AFR in 2003, virtually all the jobs Latham held, up to and including becoming Labor leader, were "provided by the ALP". His employment after politics is a consequence of his time as a Labor MP.

In recent years Latham has been banging on about the primacy of privacy. In August last year he wrote that "no matter one's standing in society, a basic right of citizenship is the capacity to enjoy the quiet pleasures of a private life".

The problem is one of double standards. The Latham Diaries (Melbourne University Press, 2005) named a married Labor parliamentarian as having had a "long-running relationship" with a female lobbyist in Canberra, who was named. Latham also identified a female journalist in Sydney with whom he "once had a fling". And he cited a former ALP staffer whom he claimed had an affair with the "missus" of a senior Labor official in Melbourne. And now Latham is pleading with the Press Council to prevent a newspaper from reporting a public exchange he had with a swimming coach.

In August 2002, Latham issued a release of a speech he planned to give in a grievance debate in the House of Representatives. He misjudged the time limit, and only the first half of the speech was delivered. In the second half, Latham attempted to defend his actions in breaking the arm of an East European-born taxi driver, who had a wife and dependent children, during an altercation. Latham named the taxi driver and then asserted that the man "aspired to workers' compensation and that's what he's now got". It is a callous and cruel comment that also took no account of the taxi driver's right to privacy.

The call for greater regulation of the print media does not just come from former editors and ex-politicians. In his decision in Eatock v Bolt last September, Judge Mordecai Bromberg made findings concerning not only what the News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt wrote about "fair-skinned Aboriginal people" but also what he did not write. Bromberg objected to Bolt's "tone" and said it was important "to also read between the lines". This, despite the fact the law is supposed to be about establishing facts - not making inferences.

There is good reason for the media to act responsibly. But there is also good reason to preserve a free media, independent of excessive regulation. And there is no reason to listen to the likes of Beecher and Latham on what constitutes responsible media behaviour. It's just not bearable.


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