Melbourne: Australian opposition has landed in hot waters after one of its leaders suggested that "migrants should be taught the importance of wearing deodorant and waiting in queues without pushing in”.
The coalition`s citizenship spokeswoman Terese Gambaro said that the cultural awareness training should also be given by employers bringing skilled migrants into Australia under the 457 visa program.
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," she was quoted as saying by `The Australian` newspaper in an interview today.
She added Australians were sometimes guilty of not wearing deodorant on public transport.
"We all need to be mindful of our fellow traveller," Gambaro said.
She said while her comments would make some people "most upset", it was equally important that immigrants were taught about laws, customs and their rights so they were not exploited.
The number of 457 temporary business visas granted was 90,120 last financial year, rivalling the 113,725 visas issued under the government`s priority program for permanent skilled migration.
She said cultural awareness training was desperately needed for immigrants to help them enjoy life in Australia more fully. "The detail of this has to be worked out, whether it`s included as part of a visa charge for certain industries or done through a labour-hire firm," she said, adding there were going to be problems as more workers arrived in Australia.
"You are going to have a whole pile of people coming in," she said.
"If you`re a mining company you`ll have a whole pile of people coming in from India or China or anywhere else you need to have socially skilled workers.”
"It`s not just about having bodies in the workplace. If they are going to have a good experience working for us here in Australia they need to have cultural awareness and socially skilled workers as well as being work-skilled workers. They need to teach what the local laws are here, what is acceptable in a tenancy arrangement. All of this should be included. It should be about lifestyle, health and hygiene. It`s how to fit into Australian society."
The comments have outraged several migrant communities across the country.
Marianne Dickie, Sub-Dean of the Migration Law Program at the Australian National University, said the opposition`s plan was "really offensive" especially given Gambaro`s parents were immigrants from Italy.
"Every migrant struggles against discrimination and the Italian community were at the forefront of these allegations for some time," Dickie said.
Sri Lankan refugee advocate Ramesh Fernandez said forcing immigrants to learn about the Australian customs of wearing deodorant and waiting patiently in queues is akin to "treating them like monkeys".
Fernandez, who came to Australia by boat in 2001, said the proposal was "not reasonable".
"There is a pattern of treating migrants in abusive ways in this parliament," Fernandez, who runs the RISE refugee advocacy group, said. "This is some sort of idiotic way of looking at migrant issues. These are general issues that everyone knows about. They are not coming from the zoo; this is just like treating them like monkeys," he added.
Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou, who chairs the parliamentary inquiry into multiculturalism said the Coalition`s citizenship spokeswoman Teresa Gambaro`s suggestion was ridiculous.