'Migrants should learn English': Sunday Mail editor stands by comments

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Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson has been criticised for comments about migrants he says are "failing to integrate into mainstream Australia".

A Queensland newspaper editor has defended his criticism of migrants in Australia who don't speak English.

Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson said on Sky News TV show Credlin on Tuesday night the average Australian looks at people who don't speak English at home as "failing to integrate properly".

Mr Gleeson's comments came following former prime minister Tony Abbott's call for the Turnbull government to reduce Australia's immigration intake.

"I think so many reasons why so many people have deserted the Liberal National Party in the last few years and gone to parties like the Pauline Hanson's and Clive Palmer's is that they have been very vocal on migration and vocal on immigration," Mr Gleeson said on the show. 

"I think that a lot of people, the average Australians, are sitting at home thinking 'well OK, I want to buy a house in Sydney, but because of the immigration policies of the previous Federal government's, because the way they have allowed a lot of people into this country with plenty of dough, I can't afford a house in Sydney'. 

"They are also sitting back and looking at some of these people thinking 'well you don't speak English at home, you're failing to integrate properly into mainstream Australia', we just want these people to be Aussies."

Migration is a 'privilege'

On Wednesday Mr Gleeson told SBS News he "stands by" his comments.

"There are enclaves of migrants in this country who haven't tried to adopt the Australian way of life and learn English. It's a privilege to come to this country and be in our country and that privilege goes with speaking our language."

"The Grand Mufti in Sydney doesn't speak English – I don't get that."

"If I went and lived in France, I would be very keen to learn French. And I would embrace learning French."

"I believe that anyone who comes to this country and is a migrant ... Part of the process of coming to this country should be that they learn English."

The Grand Mufti in Sydney doesn't speak English – I don't get that.

Mr Gleeson said he had "no problem" with people speaking multiple languages as long as they "attempt to speak English, because English is the native tongue of Australia".

"If you speak Chinese and you're attempting to speak English, you're an Aussie."

Mr Gleeson has been at the helm of the Brisbane-based Sunday Mail since 2013. The newspaper has a circulation of about 300,000.

'I hope he regrets this'

Following his comments on Tuesday, Labor MP Stirling Hinchliffe said Mr Gleeson had failed to "understand what being an 'Aussie' is".

"Peter Gleeson is nice guy who I hope regrets this. Considering that 21 per cent of Australian families speak a language other than English at home, I think he doesn’t understand what being an “Aussie” is," the Sandgate state member wrote on Twitter.

Another Labor MP Martin Pakula also condemned Mr Gleeson's comments. In a tweet, Mr Pakula said both his parents spoke no English at a young age in Australia, but went on to be integral members of society.

The 2016 national Census revealed more than 21 per cent of Australians spoke a langauge other than English at home. Other than English, the next most common were Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

Speaking at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday, Mr Abbott claimed Australia should drastically reduce immigration levels until migrants are better integrated into society and to prevent further pressure on wages and housing prices.

 

Mr Abbott claimed he wanted to see a cut in immigration numbers from 190,000 to 110,000 people a year, urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to take the issue to the electorate at the next election.

Asked whether Australia needed to change its immigration policy, Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said the intake was lower now than its peak under the previous Labor government.

Wednesday 21 February is International Mother Language Day. It is marked around the world to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

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