« Chapter Forty-Four - More Abandoned Plans | Main | Welcome Home »

The Scrivener: They're Taking Our Jobs

Brian Barratt talks to a Russian bus driver with a PhD in military logistics and a taste for classical music, and an Afghan taxi driver who is a qualified engineer and speaks Persian, Russian, French and English.

"Bigots moan that all these foreigners are taking our jobs,'' says Brian. "Well, mate, I welcome them.''
To read more of his civilised. compassionate and good-humoured words click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page.

And for endless hours of fun with words and ideas visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas

The campus is a bit less than a kilometre from end to end. Thatís a long way for a disabled student. Itís also quite a distance if youíre fully abled but lugging a briefcase full of heavy books and papers to your room at the far end. Fortunately for all, thereís a minibus service.

The minibus drivers always had their radios switched on. Most had pop music or sports programmes, at full blast. One listened only to classical music, played quietly. When there werenít any other passengers, it didnít take long to get him talking. The opening gambit was a comment about his excellent taste in music. He replied in a strong accent but conversation flowed. Itís wonderful to chat with someone for whom music is essential to life.

This man is Russian. He is cultured and highly educated. He has a PhD but it isnít exactly the sort of qualification to get him a job in Australia. True, the Government says we need skilled people, but a Russian PhD in military logistics could raise the eyebrows of any prospective employer. So here he is, driving a minibus.

That was a few years ago. The scene changes. Weíre now at the local shopping centre. A taxi driver is standing by his car, having a quiet smoke. A rest between calls. He has fine features, dark eyes, a good head of black but greying hair, and a Mediterranean complexion. Could be from somewhere east of Greece, perhaps? Turkey? The Middle East? No, he said; move further east.

He has an extensive vocabulary. His English is perfect, with Australian vowels and a slight foreign clip to the consonants. Impossible to identify. OK, where? He came from Afghanistan, less than twenty years ago. He is a graduate in engineering but his field of expertise is highly specialised ó too specialised for him to get an appropriate job in this country.

He had to learn English when he came here. He also speaks fluent French, like his parents, and he majored in Russian at university in Afghanistan. An engineer who speaks four languages fluently, and he has to drive a cab to earn a living.
One doesnít ask such a person why or how he came. He did, however, speak of a boat with forty Afghan refugees being sighted by Australian authorities. It was tracked for a while, but it then disappeared from the radar screens. In plain language: forty people drowned. People-traffickers probably made a good profit from the $10,000 they charged each person for this privilege. According to the cab driver, thatís the going rate.

To twist the meaning of that last term, the going rate of cab drivers in Sydney is hectic. It might have improved in recent times, but thirty years ago it was race-track style. Add the devious routes and the driversí foul language ó taking a taxi was not a pleasant experience.

Food poisoning is a far from pleasant experience. During a conference in Sydney, I was seen to be turning green before I dashed off to the loo. After a delirious lie-down in the sick-room, I was taken to hospital. An injection was administered and I was put into the Observation Ward. Nobody took any notice of me but I observed everyone else coming and going for a couple of hours until a taxi was called.

Thus began the drive to Sydney airport, so that I could get home to Melbourne. The carís bonnet was loose. The driver cursed. He got out to fix it, with a piece of string. Sheíll be right, mate. Still swearing, he drove faster to make up for lost time. Steam started fizzing from beneath the bonnet. The radiator was about to explode. His language turned the air blue. I was in a post-delirium daze, hardly able to speak, and with a very unstable digestive system. I pleaded with him to let me get out and take another cab. No way, mate. Sheíll be right. Well, she wasnít right. The torture continued. The next few hours have been erased from my memory.

Bigots moan that all these foreigners are taking our jobs. Well, mate, I welcome them. Iíd much rather be driven by a quiet Russian music-lover with a PhD in military logistics or an Afghan engineer who speaks Persian, Russian, French and English fluently without swearing.

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.