Coalition spokesperson on multicultural affairs Teresa Gambaro has again sparked controversy stating that asylum seekers should learn English to negate racism. This follows her previous comments that “migrants should be taught about the importance of wearing deodorant and waiting in queues without pushing in”.¹
These comments are indicative of a total misunderstanding of the nature of racism and resorts to blaming the victims of racism rather than the perpetrators. The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia chief Pino Migliorino is stated as saying:
“To trivialise the issue by saying not speaking English causes racism is illogical and it blames the victim. The whole notion of anti-racism is the capacity to accept differences, not trying to get rid of differences.”
Racism is a product of intolerance, ignorance and xenophobia. To tackle it we need to remove the stigma from racial differences – the most effective way to do this would be to stop publicly vilifying asylum seekers in politics and the media.
‘Deodorant’ MP Teresa Gambaro sparks new race row
THE Coalition’s spokeswoman on multicultural affairs has again ignited a row on race, this time being accused of “blaming the victim” for her comments that all new migrants should learn English to avoid racism.
Teresa Gambaro yesterday said it was incumbent on people to learn to speak English when they arrived in the country, as learning the language was the key to reducing racism in Australia.
“Where it breaks down is because of language barriers, that’s why learning English is so important,” Ms Gambaro told The Australian. “I’ve always believed that. English is the key. It’s incumbent on people to learn to speak English. If you don’t learn to speak English in the early settlement years your levels will never improve and will stay that way for the rest of your life.”
But the Federal MP, who recently apologised for saying migrants should be taught to wear deodorant and form orderly queues, was slammed by multicultural groups and the Gillard government, which said her comments showed a misunderstanding of what racism was and how it should be tackled.
Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia chief Pino Migliorino said speaking English was not a factor in racist attacks and Ms Gambaro’s comments were illogical.
“To trivialise the issue by saying not speaking English causes racism is illogical and it blames the victim. The whole notion of anti-racism is the capacity to accept differences, not trying to get rid of differences.” He said Ms Gambaro misunderstood racism and how to reduce it.
The Coalition was trying to “destabilise multiculturalism” and say the “way to get social harmony is to be all the same”.
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Kate Lundy said Ms Gambaro’s latest bungle showed her “inexperience and irrelevance”. She said Ms Gambaro should know a program called Workplace English Language and Literacy had been in place for a long time.
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