Sunday, 4 November 2007

Sunday's Featured Column

Dear Fellow blogger,

In order to inject some predictability into this blog, I've decided to introduce a regular featured column every Sunday. Today's is from Fr Kevin Ryan who writes weekly in the Catholic Leader.

It's entitled "Shocking attitudes not a fair go for all Aussies"

"A few weeks ago, the Minister for Immigration justified a cut back in refugee and migrant numbers from Africa on doubtful grounds. He spoke of them forming gangs in this country. To go further with the fear Pauline Hanson spoke of diseases such as AIDS.

That is enough to send a shudder through most Aussies.

Attitudes like this did work 10 years ago, but not anymore. As a country we have matured to the point where not many fall for such comments. After all, our young people have studied with many non-Anglo Saxons. They socialise with them and marry them. Many of the old barriers are gone.

This country's program for migration has worked well. It's intake of refugees, while it has its weaknesses has settled many families in peace and a reasonable standard of living. We can never overlook the fact that much of our talked-of prosperity is due to the hard work and sacrifices of migrant people over the last 50 or 60 years. Caught as we are in the money cycle, we have overlooked all that foreign workers have brought.

The Australian (10/09/07) tells a story we could think about. It tells the story of a well off New York family that went on a cruise to celebrate a birthday. The writer marveled at the fact their party of 10 remained civil to each other even though they had to make such "big" decisions as to whether they'd eat at the buffet or enjoy a sit-down service.

One night a young boy said "You know. The people on this ship are so nice". It was then he realised the nice people were the workers, housekeepers, cooks, general staff, all of whom were born in foreign countries. The people having fun and making a mess were New Yorkers and those being nice were non-Americans.

This raised the question as to whether foreign workers were bringing in more than labour.
"If we are importing friendliness, does that mean we have a shortage"?

Are we running out of "nice" in the same way we are running out of oil? The cruise workers were working up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. What was said of those workers can be said of many of our guest workers. They bring hard work, sustainable living, and friendliness to us. They are doing work the native born Australians won't do.

Many of our industries that need intensive, reliable workers survive only because of those allowed here for only a short time. We can think we are doing them a good turn by giving them 457 work visas. Seldom do we think of how risky that is for the visitor. It means that unscrupulous operators can take advantage of them. Many are charged unreasonable sums for sponsorship, lodging and transport. They have little or no health cover and are employed at the whim of the boss and the variations of the weather.

A few weeks ago, a group through no fault of theirs, found themselves out of work in Toowoomba. They faced deportation within a month if work couldn't be found. They would go home with a debt they had no hope of repaying.
We've heard the stories of unsuspecting women being forced into prostitution. Before we criticise the foreign workers who will work we should look at the Australians who prefer welfare to work and there are plenty of them.

Where I live I see the foreign workers ready to go to work at 5.30am, hail, rain or shine. Five hours later I see another group, born in this country, pushing a child in a stroller as they approach the day after the night before.

Farming depends on rain. On a vegetable farm, rain means mud. Recently some workers walked off the job because they had mud on their boots, but the Chinese stayed on. We have many labour intensive industries that depend heavily on workers with the 457 visas.

It's time we asked if they are getting a fair go or are we involved in a dressed up form of slavery."

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