Teresa Gambaro, immigrants, deodorants and queues:

Andrew Bartlett, research fellow, migration law program, ANU, writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. In among the understandable criticism of Teresa Gambaro regarding offensive remarks (since apologised for) made while suggesting some immigrants are in need of some “cultural awareness training”, Crikey is right to acknowledge the legitimate question of “how do we ‘induct’ new Australians and what support is there to help migrants with housing, employment and accessing social services?”

What was less noticed about Gambaro’s remarks was that they were in part referring to migrants who are holders of 457 visas — skilled workers whose visas are temporary. The simple fact is that these migrants are precisely the ones who don’t get any form of official settlement support or “induction” of any type. This is because by definition people on temporary visas are technically not “settling” here, even though the facts show a large percentage of them do end up staying permanently. Regardless, almost all of them live here as part of our community for many years.

Calculations released by the federal government show that these migrants are a major cash cow for the Australian taxpayer. By the very nature of their visa, these migrants are employed virtually from the day they arrive, often in high-paying jobs, and thus are immediately contributing significant amounts of tax revenue into the federal coffers. Yet not only are they not entitled to receive any formal settlement support or induction, they also are not eligible for many of the other social services and supports that permanent residents receive, often even down to things such as disaster relief assistance.

The net positive contribution to public revenue of this group is probably higher than virtually any other group of residents in the country. Not only should we not be insulting them, we should be recognising that the rest of us do very well financially out of their presence — before we also take into account the social and cultural contributions they provide.

Giving a little bit back by assisting them in more quickly and effectively understanding and engaging with the society they have come to — not least by providing greater protections against being ripped off or their basic rights being breached in other ways — should be the least we can do.

Michael R. James writes: Let us put to one side the curious spectacle of the scion of an Italian immigrant family of fishmongers complaining about smells. In a laudable example of the great Australian story, this first generation immigrant was sent to the finest private girls school (All Hallows) so that that background — though highly successful — could be left behind.

We should remember that Gambaro was scheduled to host Lord Christopher Monckton for the Brisbane leg of his Australian lecture tour in September last year, when he was spreading his climate-change denialism. The Brisbane gig was hastily withdrawn by Gambaro after, in an address to the American Freedom Alliance conference in Los Angeles — just before to his Australian trip — his Lordship called Ross Garnaut a Nazi while showing a slide of a swastika next to a quote of Garnaut’s, and derisively shouting “Heil, Hitler”.

Teresa’s olfactory apparatus, however, took a long time to react to that particular stink because the Brisbane gig was only changed at the last moment. Quite possibly, similar to last night’s apology, it was forced by Liberal Party powers compensating for her lack of good sense.

In her inner-city seat of Brisbane (and my electorate) 21.3% voted for the Greens (Andrew Bartlett) and 51.7% combined Labor and Greens, last time, so with any luck she may be a one-term member. She lost her previous election as a sitting member (while parliamentary secretary to minister for immigration and citizenship), in a different electorate, in 2007 so none of this behaviour should be any surprise.

Is this really the best quality candidate the LNP can manage for this prime seat, not to mention appointment to a portfolio that self-evidently requires considerable tact and sensitivity? (That was an entirely rhetorical question.)

Katherine Stuart writes: As a one-time immigrant myself to another country (Sweden), unlike most Australians whose families have been here for at least a couple of generations, I’ve experienced first-hand what is to integrate into another culture. I’d suggest making it mandatory for immigrants and refugees and anyone who is involved in the process of receiving them to “read” Shaun Tan’s wonderful graphic novel The Arrival, which has no words at all, as step 1.

How accurately this book depicts the weirdness of everything in the new place, the sense of dislocation, the mistakes one makes, etc. The most difficult thing to do when arriving in a new country is accepting differences.

Culturally, we learn what is “good” and “not good” and all the nuances in between, as children. Being prepared to become a “child” again in this sense is difficult and essential to successful integration in my experience. That and a supportive group of your compatriots with whom you can sling off freely about those bloody locals with their ridiculous and illogical ways.

I mean what’s the big deal about having to take off your shoes at the door every time you go inside anywhere?

Michael Byrne writes: Your derisory commentary on Teresa Gambaro’s hygiene and queue jumping observations displays the desire to condemn too often expressed in the reactionary politics of “progressives”.

In the early 1970s a new employee, an migrant of Indian origins, joined out computer department. I sat in the desk behind him and it was soon evident that he was not aware of his heavy body odour. The fact was noticed among other close by work mates and the usual uncomplimentary condemnatory commentary began in quiet voices.

I decided to inform him of his situation and he responded immediately. We are still friends today.

Concerning queue jumping. Whether from ignorance or as a wilful act by the person, we hate it as it is a breaking of an order our culture subscribes to without need for domestic civic training. Simply informing newcomers of this basic cultural behaviour I would have thought to have been mandatory by virtue of its universality.

So well done, Ms Gambaro. You talk sense.

Jim Gobert writes: Along with the Silent Majority (™) I totally agree with Ms Gambaro and think it’s time for these disease ridden, queue jumping, false god worshipping, terrorist sympathisers to integrate into Australia’s polite society. I am tired of having the smell of baba ghanouj, curry and other subversive unAustralian smells polluting the natural radiant fragrance of Australia that we all love — a sort of eucalyptus, sea spray and diesel — the smell of the armpits of Ms Gambaro and Scott Morrison.

The government should install sheep dips, at all entry points into Australia, filled with Pine O Cleen, Exit Mould and Brut (Impulse for the ladies) and encourage, with cattle prods if necessary, all migrants to bathe in these integrating liquors.

Glen Frost writes:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free; fresh
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; soap for oil
Our home is girt by sea
; Our homes are girt by showers
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
; Our shops abound with toiletries
Of beauty rich and rare; Of potions to clean your hair
In history’s page, let every stage
: Form orderly queues, at ev’ry stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
; In joyful strains we sing in showers,
Advance Australia Fair.

Hopefully this new, and dare I suggest cleaner, version will help get the message across. Indeed, the retail sector is struggling and a national campaign to encourage all Australians to purchase more toiletries would be a nation cleaning/building program; the campaign fixes two problems in one!

Perhaps a TV ad campaign, in English, to achieve cut through, would be appropriate. I recall the ad campaign introducing the GST was set to a popular song with the lyrics altered slightly to ensure viewers, especially the elderly, understood the key message (that we have nothing to lose but our chains).

The cant’s a can’t:

Ian Lowe writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Today you reported: “Motorists aren’t backing Newman. Meanwhile, springing up everywhere in Queensland, we’re reliably told: a bumper sticker that says ‘Can DO is a Cant’.”

The sticker actually has an apostrophe: Can DO is a Can’t. That is grammatically more appropriate and, no doubt intentionally, allows an ambiguity when pronounced …

Penalty rates:

John Richardson writes: Like George Calombaris, Don Wormald (yesterday, comments) must also be a graduate of the Gerry Harvey business school, given the blinkered nature of his objections against the new retail penalty rates.

Don argues that having to pay $53.09 an hour for casual employees to work on public holidays is “unsustainable”.

Well Don, if you had to pay your workers $53.09 an hour on a full-time basis, you might have a point, but to claim that, because you have to pay this rate on public holidays (which represent less than 3% of your total operating hours) that your entire business is somehow rendered untenable is, at best, a gross exaggeration.

While I accept that Don’s operating margin on public holidays will be lower because of the higher cost of labour inputs on those days (which will also act to reduce his overall average margin measured over time), the fact remains that it is his overall margin over time that he needs to be concerned about, in particular as he acknowledges that he needs to stay open on public holidays to maintain a competitive service offering.

If Don was operating in a “penalty-free” zone, he would be paying his casual employees $30.34 for every hour they worked however, after factoring-in the public holiday penalties, he (along with his competitors) will now have to pay them an average of $31.22 an hour (assuming they work the equivalent of full-time hours), which is well below the threshold rate of pain being enjoyed by average Australians of $35 an hour (which is effectively closer to $40 after factoring in the effect of paid leave).

For Don’s privileged band of casual workers to earn the equivalent of $40 an hour under the new regime, they would need to work 14 days at their current penalty-free rate of $30.34 per hour, plus all 10 public holidays @ the new penalty rate of $53.09 per hour. Of course, unlike their counterparts who enjoy full-time work, Don’s casual employees are not only concerned with their hourly rate of pay, but also how many hours of work they can actually get.

I’d be interested to know what rate of pay Don extends to members of his family when they work on public holidays, or does he expect them to work for nothing, while the business pockets the labour cost savings?