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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2463

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(11.13) —We had a discussion a little while ago about the English as a second language program. I was slightly concerned that no mention was made in that discussion of the impact on the Catholic education system of the Government's decision about that program.

Senator Macklin —We have a Bill coming up and it will be debated then.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —That may be, but there is a perception in the community that in fact the problem has been solved. It has not been solved. The reality is that the Commonwealth's pledge to restore fully ESL Budget cuts applied only to state schools and not to the Catholic school system. Senator Macklin may know more than I do about the Government's intentions, but an article in last Sunday's Sun-Herald newspaper states:

The Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, said when she announced restoration of public school ESL funding that she had held constructive discussion with the NSW Catholic education authorities on ways in which their ESL cut could be absorbed without any adverse effects on classroom teachers or students.

The newspaper went on:

But a spokesman for Senator Ryan has admitted that a funding agreement has still not been signed between the CEC and the Commonwealth. The Government was still waiting for the CEC's `proposal' . . .

As I understand it, the widespread misconception that the problem has been solved is far from the truth in respect of the element of the education system which probably has a greater proportion of migrants than any other, that is, the Catholic education system. The Government is clearly giving the impression that funds have been restored; but it has not coughed up an extra cent for the Catholic education system. According to the General Secretary of the New South Wales Independent Teachers Federation, Mr Michael Raper, something like 8,000 migrant children will miss out on English as a second language classes next year because of these delays and what he described as deadlocked negotiations. I am surprised that Senator Macklin says that it will all be settled in a Bill which will come up next week or very shortly. There is no indication of a Bill being anything like ready to cope with the specific problem. That is what concerns me.

The loss of 130 teaching jobs, as well as the fact that 8,000 migrant children will miss out on English as a second language classes, is also a matter of concern. Mr Raper has said that no compromise appears to be in sight before the beginning of the first term of next year. In his view, the Government is being very stubborn and will not back down on the cuts. A totally false impression has been generated about how the problem has been resolved. I would like the Government to come a little cleaner on this matter and to say what its intentions really are, what is the hold-up and why greater progress is not being made. Is there a real risk that by the first term of next year this problem will not have been resolved? It has been alleged that it will not be resolved by the first term of next year. If the General Secretary of the New South Wales Independent Teachers Federation is wrong, let us hear a statement from the Minister, Senator Ryan, establishing just how wrong he is. At the moment there is clearly cause for major concern within the Catholic education system about whether the problem has been anything like resolved. As I say, it is a serious matter. It is claimed that in New South Wales alone 8,000 migrant children will be affected.