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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3374

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Minister for Education. When will the Government respond to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts entitled `Towards A National Language Policy', which was completed three years ago and which Ministers have already broadly commended? Why did the Minister fail to respond by May and then by November, as she had promised both in her then urgent interim statement last February and in her statements in August relating to Mr Lo Bianco's appointment as the Government's special consultant to help complete the Government's response? Has Mr Lo Bianco's term of appointment been extended? Finally, does not this failure concerning national language policy further compound the Government's decisions to cut out teaching resources for English as a second language, abolish the multicultural education grants of the Schools Commission, amalgamate the Special Broadcasting Service with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, abolish the Institute of Multicultural Affairs and restrict government support for ethnic schools?

Senator RYAN —None of those things. Senator Teague is obviously getting himself in shape to do a bit of grandstanding at the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia conference. But the answer to most of those questions is no. The reason why the national language policy has been a long time coming is that we have carried out our commitment to have very extensive consultation. Senator Teague probably knows, as he has taken an interest in this matter, that Mr Lo Bianco has travelled widely around Australia, consulting education authorities, ethnic groups, teachers, teacher training institutions and the like, to ensure that the policy, when it emerges, will be as comprehensive as possible.

I have received from Mr Lo Bianco this week the first draft of the document. I must say it is a very impressive effort, in my view. Once I have given some consideration to the first draft it will then be made available to ethnic groups, education groups and so on, for their responses before the Government takes any final decisions.

I remind Senator Teague that a sum was set aside in the Budget for the first stage of implementation of a national language policy. So, although the document is a little later than I would have hoped earlier in the year, my impression at this stage is that it is a very thorough exercise and will meet the needs of the many people who have attached their aspirations to it.