Law steps in if race is an issue

ROCKHAMPTON'S Dean Ruff says he's no racist, but the law disagrees.

Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Booth, yesterday said it was illegal to refuse to serve someone because they did not speak English.

Ms Booth said Mr Ruff's comment that "ignorant immigrants'' were not welcome in his shop for this reason was an example of discrimination on race grounds.

Mr Ruff, who owns Kalka Bait and Tackle, has made front-page headlines and appeared on a national current affairs program in recent days because of his stance against a particular group of Vietnamese immigrants working at the meatworks.

"The law is plain, whatever people's views are, you can't treat people different on terms of race, and that includes language,'' Commissioner Booth said.

However, she said the Commission acted once a complaint was made.

Mr Ruff, 21, yesterday declined to comment further on the issue. Earlier last week he said business at his Lakes Creek Road store had improved since media reports began.

He had calls of support from across Australia.

According to Central Queensland University's manager of equity and diversity, Margaret Culmsee, Mr Ruff was not helping Rockhampton's image as a tolerant, multicultural community.

"Rockhampton is becoming home to many different groups of people,'' Ms Culmsee said.

"That would mean that people who live in this region need to accept different ways of looking at things and doing things.

"Perhaps, the shop owner's comments are not useful in creating a socially cohesive community.

"We need to learn from this, that is what is important.''

Ms Culmsee believes the immigrants' employers, in this case Teys Brothers, had a responsibility to help foreign workers adjust.

A spokesman for Teys Brothers yesterday declined to comment.

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