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Address To the FECCA congress (third national), Canberra



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MAR 05 "3 3 1. 4 : 5 9 LDR OPPOSITION - SYD

Leader o f the Opposition

Check Against Delivery

ADDRESS BY

DR JOHN HEWSON IMP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TO THE 1992 FECCA! CONGRESS (THIRD NATIONAL) \ 1

THURSDAY, 3 DECEMBER 1992

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

CANBERRA

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

Parliam ent House. Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 2774022

This third FECCA Congress brings together a wide cross-section of Australians committed to promoting equal opportunity and access in all aspects ot Australian

society.

As such, I am delighted to be here and to be able to put directly the views of the Coalition Parties on a wide range of issues affecting Australia's ethnic communities,

I am also very pleased, in a personal sense, to be here at this Congress.

From my earliest days growing up in Sydney's southern suburbs in the 1950's and 1960's, I had first-hand experience of both the (prejudice that was often directed against newly arrived migrants and of the respect they won through their own hard work and their commitment to Australia.

The suburb in which I grew up in Sydney, Beverly Hills, is adjacent to Riverwood, which was previously known as Herne Bay. And ( have very vivid memories of newiy arrived migrants in the 1950's as they moved to the temporary accommodation that was provided for them at Herne Bay. I often thought of the immensity of the

challenge that confronted those migrants and their families as they made a new life for themselves in a new land. But, above all, l remember their irrepressible optimism and confidence in the future.

Later, as a student and university teacher, I began Ito better understand and to admire the great contribution which migrants have made'to nation-building in Australia.

In this context, I am not just referring to the post-war contribution made by migrants to economic nation-building - a contribution which has been well documented, particularly in terms of major national infrastructure projects and a wide range of private sector business enterprises. x

I am also referring to the fact that Australia's migrants have contributed to nation­ building in a much wider sense. They have helped! to build a richer, more tolerant and more dynamic society and they have done so in the context of their overriding and unifying commitment to Australia,

Indeed, Australia has been much more successful in this process than most other societies. And the tolerance and richness which characterises our multicultural society continues to be one of our greatest sources of strength.

These views have been reinforced sin.ce i entered public life as a Member of Parliament in 1987. In this period, I have encountered new dimensions of the migrant experience in Australia. .

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1 have become more directly acquainted with the concerns and aspirations of Australia's ethnic communities. I have had the good fortune to do so at a number of levels - through attending many activities and festivals, through participating in conferences, through discussions with ethnic community leaders, and through listening at first hand to the hopes and difficulties of many'migrants themselves.

I have to say to you that I have found this particular aspect of public life an especially rewarding one.

I have.seen ethnic communities, small and large, iworking together to preserve their distinctive cultural and religious traditions while! fiercely proud of their sense of Australian nationalism.

i have seen these communities involved in a wide! range of fundraising activities and building projects designed to meet pressing social, cultural and religious needs. And I have witnessed at first hand the difficulties confronting many migrants and their determination to overcome them.

So, for al! these personal and professional reasons, i am delighted to be with you and to be participating in this important Congress.

I know that your deliberations over the next few days are focussing on a range of issues affecting the current and future prospects for Australia's ethnic communities. There are very significant and relevant issues on your agenda including the future of multicultural policies, immigration and population issues, human rights, and settlement

policies. ;

These will be major issues within Australian society over the next decade and your consideration of them will be important.

But, in my view, there is an issue of predominant significance for gij Australians at the present time: and that is the impact on them of the worst recession for 60 years. Australians are worried about the security of their Ijob or the prospect of getting a job if they are unemployed. And they are worried about the diminishing opportunities available for their children.

FECCA is an organisation committed to “working towards equal opportunity and access for ethnic communities and individuals in 'all aspects of Australian society".

In my view, the greatest single obstacle at the present time to that "equal opportunity and access" - for ethnic communities and for sjl Australians - is our national economic circumstances. .

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One million Australians lack "equal opportunity and access" because they cannot get

a job.

Probably as many Australians again lack "equal opportunity and access" because they

cannot get the amount Of work they want. ·

Hundreds of thousands of Australians lack "equal opportunity and access" because their businesses have gone bankrupt and their livelihoods have been destroyed in the worst recession since the Great Depression. ;

Many more Australians lack "equal opportunity and access" for a range of other reasons including the inadequacy of our education and training system, the problems of our health care system, the social problems 'aggravated by the recession, the limitations of our industrial relations system, and much more.

And all Australians have their opportunities diminished by the record foreign debt which Australia is currently accumulating and which has now exceeded $200 billion.

In these very difficult economic circumstances, I know that all of you attending this Congress are very well aware of the special difficulties that are created for Australia's newly arrived migrants and for our ethnic communities generally.

* The latest official statistics show that among migrants who arrived in Australia since 1991, the average unemployment rate is over 40%,I with the rate among some national groups as high as almost 70%. Among those who arrived between 1986 and 1990, the unemployment rate is almost 16%, while more than 13% of those who arrived between 1981 and 1985 are unemployed.x

The recent Bureau of Immigration Research Conference addressed this issue and focussed, in particular, on a research paper entitled Immigrants and the Australian Labour Market: the Experience of Three Recessions.

The paper produces compelling evidence in support of its conclusion that in a recession such as the current one, immigrants to Australia from non-English speaking backgrounds suffer higher job loss and relatively higher increases in unemployment rates than other immigrants from English-speaking backgrounds, and higher than those born in Australia. :

The study also shows how immigrants, and particularly those from non-English speaking backgrounds, are also relatively disadvantaged during the recovery phase of a recession. :

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i know that all of you at this Congress are aware that the economic problems currently affecting the ethnic communities go well beyond the economic statistics of unemployment, bankruptcies, and the like. ;

There is also the sense of disillusionment that the! recession has created.

For many migrants, this is not the Australia they came to or the Australia they hoped for or the Australia they worked so hard for.

They are seeing their dream - of handing on to their children more opportunities and a higher standard of living than they themselves enjoyed - disappearing before their eyes.

I know that all of you at this Congress recogniselthe scale of this problem and that your discussions will focus on access and equity iarrangements. In fact, your theme “Australia for all Australians" is a very timely and irnportant one.

But the hope I am expressing to you is that you will consider this issue of access and equity, of opportunity and fairness, in its proper and broader national context

Australians cannot simply reconcile themselves to servicing the human consequences of their current economic problems. :

We have to commit ourselves to solving the problems.

It is very appropriate that at this Congress you focus on how to alleviate the particular problems facing Australia's ethnic communities in such a difficult economic environment. x :

But this focus should not be exclusive. It is lalso important that the Congress recognise the national dimensions of the problem; that it address the causes of them, and that it focus on the best means to overcome; them. I

I believe this is very important because, without; that national focus and without a sense of realism about Australia's economic problems, the difficulties of opportunity and access currently being encountered by many members of Australia's ethnic communities will continue, and the task of overcoming them will become greater.

My point here is a simple, but fundamental, one.j

There is no doubt that the current recession has brought special hardships and difficulties to Australia's ethnic communities, and it is important that conferences such

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as this one recommend policies and programs to minimise that damage and create

genuine opportunities for advancement.

There is also no doubt that, irrespective of economic conditions, there are problems for many migrants In gaining equal opportunity and access in many aspects of our national life, And it Is very appropriate that major conferences, such as this one, focus on those problems and put forward proposals for resolving them.

But it is also important to recognise that there can be an element of unreality if issues

are addressed in isolation.

Australia's unemployment crisis, and the other problems of our economy, cannot be divorced from the wider national context in which! they have developed.

The problems of access and equity for our ethnic communities can most effectively be addressed when the problems of the national economy are confronted and a plan for recovery is put in place.

That is a critical aspect in the task of ensuring genuine equality of opportunity and access for all Australians. !

Centra! to any resolution of our current national problems is a concerted strategy to ensure that the talents of ail Australians are fully utilised and developed.

Whether it be language skills, or knowledge of markets, or special entrepreneurial skills, Australia cannot afford to let the attributes of any of its citizens lie under­ developed or unutilised. x

In a world where competition for international markets will become more and more intense, this requirement will become more, and more urgent.

FECCA. of course, since its establishment in 1979, has highlighted the need for the talents of aii Australians to be encouraged, developed and utilised. And I want to take this opportunity of complementing FECCA on its1 important work in that regard,

I also want to emphasise that a Coalition Government wilt be committed to the same objective.

We want gil Australians to develop their skills and their talents. And we are determined to provide the incentives and reforms to ensure that those skills and talents are properly used to the benefit of the nation, as well as to the advantage of the individuals concerned.

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We intend giving effect to this commitment in a number of ways.

First, a Coalition Government will be committed to equal treatment and equal opportunity for all Australians regardless of race, colour, religion or country of origin.

That commitment is unconditional and it is irreversible·;

Discrimination on the basis of the person’s race,:colour, religion or country of origin has no place in Australian life or law,

And the policies of a Coalition Government will be unambiguously committed to that objective - in immigration policy, in settlement arrangements for new migrants, and in every other aspect of public policy.

In this context, it is relevant to note that the Coalition Parties have reversed our previous decision to abolish the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. We recognise the Commission’s role in helping to educate, and resolve conflicts, in cases of racial or other discrimination. And we will support its continuing role in that

regard.

Second, the Coalition Parties have developed a 'framework for policy making - the Fiahtbackl package - which aims to develop Australia’s enormous economic potential as a nation and to encourage all Australians to develop their capacities and talents to the full.

Put simply, Fiahtbackl aims to remove the obstacles that for too long have held back our national development and prevented too many Australians from realising their full potential.

Whether it is the current inefficient and unfair tax system, or the centralised industrial relations system, or the high cost of transport and utilities, or the limitations of the education and training system, or whatever, we "want tc remove the obstacles to

sustainable economic growth in this country.

Whether it is discrimination of one kind or another, or the failure to utilise the talents and skills of all our people, we want to give every Australian the chance to succeed and we want to give them an equal opportunity to do so,

A third way in which a Coalition Government will work to ensure genuine equality of opportunity is through our support for the goals of the Access and Equity Strategy as part of our wider endorsement of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia.·

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We support, in particular, further development of the Access and Equity Strategy to overcome the special barriers confronting non-English speaking migrants and to ensure fair access for ail Australians to the provision of government services,

The Coalition Parties have consistently argued that the· provision of English language teaching to migrants is the single most important factor in facilitating successful settlement. That commitment was reaffirmed in Fiohtback!,

One of the problems in this area· of English language training that gives us cause for some concern is the complexity of current program arrangements, the wide range of government bodies and statutory authorities involved in them, and the lack of effective co-ordination and national standards. On our latest assessment, there are at least

seven alternative programs under which the Federal Government is involved in adult teaching of English.

We believe that in this vitally important area there would be great benefit in developing a co-ordinated Commonwealth approach to the teaching of English. And a Coalition Government will undertake that task.

Fourth, the Coalition Parties believe that our commitment to maintaining, developing and utilising effectively the skills and talents of all our people is an essential part of our wider commitment to a multicultural Australia.

I particularly appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm that commitment directly to the members and friends of FECCA, I say that bedause the Prime Minister chose the occasion of an address to FECCA in August this year to seriously misrepresent my views and the Coalition's policies on the issue of a multicultural Australia. Today is an

appropriate occasion to put the record straight.

The Coalition Parties remain firmly committed to a .rnulticulturai Australia, We recognise the historic scale of the contribution which migrants have made, and continue to make, to the development of Australians economic, cultural and social life.

We support the right of aii Australians to express and share their individual cultural heritage. We support the right of ail Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity.

We recognise the aspirations of migrant families to participate fully in Australia's national life and we will provide a range’of incentives and support for them through the policies and initiatives outlined in Fightbacki.

Within the context of an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia, the Coalition Parties are also committed to programs that will strengthen a multicultural society.

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That is why we are committed to maintaining a full range of settlement services for new migrants, developing the Ethnic Schools Program, encouraging proficiency in English, supporting community-based schools, facilitating second language skills, ensuring that prompt recognition is given to overseas qualifications which equate with Australian standards, and working to give migrant women, migrant families and aged

migrants more genuine equality of opportunity.

What we oppose, however, is the attempt by governments, such as the Federal Labor government over recent years, to use the label iof "multiculturaiism" as a means of secretly allocating money during the lead-up to ah election, as happened prior to the 1990 Federal election in the hope of winning particular votes in particular marginal seats.

We condemn that approach, which politicises multicultural programs, as the politics of division - and we will continue to reject it. And I am sure that most migrants would similarly reject the demeaning notion that their vote could be bought in such an opportunistic way.

The Coalition Parties have always been committed to strengthening the real foundations of a multicultural Australia. And I want to reaffirm to you in the clearest terms that we remain firmly committed to that objective. I

I would like today to give you two examples of the Strength of that commitment on our part · the first is in relation to SBS and the second is in relation to developing skills in languages other than English.

Since it was created by a Coalition Government sixteen years ago, SBS has developed into a very cost effective and professional specialist broadcaster.

SBS TV has established a high reputation and is fulfilling an important community role. The Coalition Parties believe that'SBS TV should continue to pursue the objective of national coverage. Australians in regional centres deserve to have the service available to them and we hope that this goal can1 ultimately be achieved.

SBS radio is also providing an important community service.

Prior to the last election, the Coalition Parties announced that we were very sympathetic to the development of the proposed second radio frequency in order to facilitate access for the growing number of language groups that could not be fully

catered for on the existing S8S radio systems of 2EA and 3EA.

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Consistent with this view, we believe that following the recent rescheduling of access to language groups on the SBS system, there is still a significant need and demand for a new system.

The Shadow Minister for Communications, Mr!Warwick Smith, and the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock, announced yesterday that, subject to detailed costings and transmissidn availability, the Coalition gives its in-principle support for the development of a second radio frequency for SBS. Mr Smith has been asked to prepare a detailed proposal along these lines.

We believe that the enhancement of SBS radio services, in conjunction with the growth into regional areas of SBS television, is necessary to meet the needs of our community, and particularly the needs of ethnic communities in Australia.

Finally, the Coalition Parties are concerned that the future of SBS is one in which it can utilise the rapid technological changes now taking place in the telecommunications industry. We have, for example, sought a role for SBS in Pay TV.

But there are many other potential developments in which SBS can play a role. Accordingly, I have asked our Shadow Minister for Communications, Mr Warwick Smith, to explore with SBS management the impact of technical change and possible innovative responses by SBS. Following this review, Mr Smith will be making a series of recommendations concerning BBS's role in theichanging broadcasting landscape.

Our commitment to a multicultural Australia is alsoievident in the importance we attach to the acquisition and development of skills in languages other than English.

Australia's multicultural society provides us'with rich language resources which are not only important in a cultural sense but are a potential asset of great value in enhancing the language skills of Australians generally.

The lesson is now clear that a nation's skills in foreign languages are positively related to its export success.

The companies that are successful internationally, whether they be Australian or otherwise, are companies which are exceptional in their employment of staff with skills in languages other than English. The old axiom that "you buy in your language but you sell in the language of your customers" is truer in today's genuinely global market than it has ever been. * :

But, of course, the arguments for the developmentlof language skills goes well beyond economics.

They include the cultural dimension - not just in Terms of better understanding the cultures of other countries but also in terms of realising the richness of Australia's multicultural society.

Despite this fact, there are danger signs for Australia. In 1967, 40 per cent of ail Australian students in the final two years of secondary school studies a language other than English. Twenty years later in 1987, the figure had fallen to just 12 per cent.

The fact is that Australia will not achieve a genuinely internationalised economy if we do not genuinely internationalise our language skills; and if our economy is not genuinely internationalised, then the future we offer to our children will continue to offer fewer opportunities than those that our parents passed on to us.

Australia has never made full use of its natural advantage in language skills that lies in the large numbers of migrants who have come to this country. These resources have been neglected for too long.

The Coalition Parties have consistently expressed our concern about the lack in Australia of a systematic, seriously intentioned and carefully targeted plan to enhance second language teaching throughout Australian ^education.

There have been important non-government initiatives in this area.

But there is also a need for national planning to promote language skills.

In meeting this challenge, the Coalition Parties1 are guided by. a number of key principles. ,

We are committed to achieving the highest quality second language teaching programs. Our policy will, therefore, focus on identifying and promoting "best practice" in language programs.

We will have clear standards against which the effectiveness of programs · both for broader education as well as for economic objectives - can be monitored.

In relation to economic objectives, we will establish proper consultative mechanisms with industry in selected areas to advise on language priorities in tourism, and trade in manufactured goods and services in particulari

We will aim to closely integrate Federal Government initiatives with other government and non-government programs.

We will encourage the contribution of private resources to language programs.

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And we will actively involve business, the parent community, teachers and the ethnic communities in language programs.

I should note that the Ethnic Schools Program is an excellent example of what community involvement can achieve in the teaching of languages other than English.

The Ethnic Schools Program puts an important! emphasis on an authentic cultural context for language learning, and on an efficient organisational arrangement that bigger bureaucracies find impossible to match.

Consistent with the principles of encouraging language skills to which I have referred, a Coalition Government wiil implement a carefully targeted program to promote skills in languages other than English.

Successful teaching of languages requires a high level of professional competence.

A Coalition Government will be supporting a substantial $10 million per annum program to enhance the quality of teaching through opening up professional development and training opportunities for teachers in key areas, including languages.

We also propose to encourage schools to develop specialist language programs through our Schools of Choice program funded iat $10 million per annum.

Together, these programs represent a very substantial financial commitment to language teaching. %

Recognising that language teaching has a particular importance at primary level, we will establish a school level Excellence Program in Languages Other than English (LOTE). The Program will cost $5 million per year.

Excellence will be defined in program quality terms, curriculum innovation and advanced communications technologies.

We plan that recipients of funds under this Program should be individual schools which have indicated their ability to achieve excellence in one of these respects. This is because, ultimately, excellence in education isl achieved by leadership and quality teaching at the school level, and not by’the supervision of bureaucrats.

Schools will competitively tender for funding under the Program.

I wish to conclude with some general comments on immigration and ethnic affairs policy.

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I believe the role which the Coalition Parties have played over recent years in stimulating and focussing community debate on immigration and related policy has been very effective, responsible and constructive.

Our priorities and fundamental beliefs have been made very dear.

We believe that a well-planned, efficiently administered and non-discriminatory immigration program is fundamental to Australia's national economic and sociai development, and to our international standing.

We believe that skilled migration, the reunion of immediate family, and the recognition of special refugee and other humanitarian claims are all essential elements of an overall immigration program.

We have not fudged what we see as critically important issues in this area.

We have spelt out a very clear position about the level of the migrant intake in the context of Australia's current very difficult economic circumstances,

We have emphasised our concern about the erosion in the integrity of the administration of Australia's migration program.

We have emphasised the importance of adequate settlement arrangements for new migrants.

And we have reaffirmed the importance of our commitment to a multicultural Australia.

We have also sought to go beyond the debate over the size of the immigration program and to focus on the rationale for the development of Australia's migration program in the years ahead.

We have addressed all these issues responsibly; on their merits, and in the context of Australia's current precarious economic circumstances.

We believe that our plan for restoring sustainable economic growth will ensure that Australia's economic and social infrastructure will be able, over the long term, to support an increased migration program backed by extensive and appropriate settlement, education, training and re-training programs,

I want to end on a note of confidence and optimism about Australia's future.

Throughout our history, we have forged a society that has effectively harnessed the talents of our people, and achieved great political and economic progress,

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Today, we stand at a turning point. We face an economic crisis of a kind we have not experienced as; a nation since the Great Depression.

We need the realism to face up to the scale of our problems. And we need the confidence that a nation, with the natural and human resources of Australia, can overcome this crisis.

Our greatest strength, of course, is the quality of pur people and their commitment to this country.

Newly arrived migrants, and our ethnic communities, are bearing a heavy burden in

the current crisis.

But their talents and commitment to Australia are a vital part of turning the current situation around,

The task of liberating their talents, providing them with the right incentives and opportunities to succeed, and overcoming the: barriers to their doing so, is an essential element of public policymaking in the T990's and beyond.

I want to assure you today that a Coalition Government will be committed to liberating the talents of M Australians. And I want to assure you that we will be especially committed to removing the barriers that currently exist to genuine quality of opportunity for all our people.

I congratulate you on the theme and purpose of ttiis Congress. I wish you well in your deliberations. And l thank you for the very important work you are doing to expand the horizons of so many Australians.

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