Former Labor leader Mark Latham has called for welfare recipients to lose their social security after 12 months if they don’t bother learning basic English.
The media commentator has returned to Fairfield, in Sydney’s south-west, six months after asking native Arabic and Vietnamese speakers on the streets if they spoke English, only to find nearly all of them didn’t.
After repeating the exercise, and encountering the same response, he has proposed drastic action to address the issue of ethnic enclaves in a suburb where only 17 per cent of its residents spoke English only at home, in the 2016 Census.
This woman (centre) agreed with Mark Latham’s idea of cutting off welfare after 12 months
‘After 12 months of welfare support, a decent period, people should be expected to pass a basic English test,’ he said in a video for Rebel Media this week.
‘If they can’t speak English after 12 months then cut off the welfare.’
Mr Latham was the federal member for nearby Werriwa, from 1994 to 2005, and argues the lack of English skills is causing social isolation in that part of Sydney.
‘What you would find with that policy, of course, is that people would get off their backside, learn English and we’d have a chance, a chance of having proper integration instead of ethnic enclaves in places like Fairfield,’ he said outside a Centrelink office.
Mark Latham says the lack of English skills in south-west Sydney is leading to ethnic enclaves
One older woman agreed with Mr Latham’s idea when asked if that was a fair proposition.
‘Well, I do because I feel that pension and all the things are not equal for everybody and I’m talking from experience,’ she said.
Mr Latham, who is now a member of the libertarian Liberal Democrats, has slammed the area’s state and federal Labor politicians for their reluctance to address the lack of English skills, for fear of offending ethnic minority voters.
Earlier this year, he lodged a petition with Cumberland Council in Sydney’s west after it put up a curtain at Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre to shield Muslim women.