TIM DICK, Urban Affairs Reporter
October 7, 2005
Parking signs at Cabramatta should be written in Chinese because Asian drivers are so poor at parking that the local council issues more tickets there than anywhere else, a Labor councillor believes. Fairfield councillor Lawrence White wants “some Asian sort of signs” erected at Cabramatta to reduce the amount of illegal parking there.
“I was berated in this council and the local papers some time ago for commenting that people from South-East Asia were bad drivers,” he told a meeting of the council last week. “Their driving has improved but their parking clearly has not.”
He won enough support from fellow councillors to have council staff investigate parking signs written in Chinese, despite Cabramatta being home to six times as many Vietnamese than Chinese. Cr White said Mandarin was a “middle of the road” language, but his comments have enraged the Vietnam-born Unity councillor Thang Ngo, who labelled them “atrocious and ill-informed”.
“Cr White and the Labor party in Fairfield should be ashamed of themselves for playing the race card,” he said. He also criticised them for “selectively [using] figures from a council report to paint the Asian community as law breakers”.
Cr Ngo said council figures showed the number of parking tickets issued in Cabramatta had fallen by a third during the past two financial years. He said the lack of parking, rather than inability of Asian drivers to park, was causing the problem, saying the comments had caused anxiety and hurt among many locals.
“We’re outraged that a councillor that is supposed to represent Fairfield has turned around to make racial slurs when the reality is the council has been slow in building the 600 additional parking spaces needed.”
But Cr White says his comments were not racist.
“I haven’t got anything to do with racism at all,” he said. “It’s purely dealing with the issue.”
He admits that last year he said drivers from South-East Asia were bad, but that situation had now improved.
“The parking issue seems to be the next big issue,” he said, and it was “not infrequent” for people to stop their cars in the middle of Cabramatta streets and get out, before eventually driving off again.