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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3167

Senator COLSTON —My question is dircted to the Minister for Education and relates to the Government's response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts entitled `Towards a National Language Policy'. When this matter was last raised in the Senate, the Minister stated that a response was expected in October. In the light of considerable public interest in the report and in the Government's anticipated response, can the Minister now advise when that response will be presented to the Senate?

Senator RYAN —A great deal of work has been done through my portfolio in developing and co-ordinating a response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on a national language policy. Certainly a first draft of the response was prepared through the portfolio by October, but when I studied it carefully I decided that it was not a specific enough response to meet the aspirations of those very many individuals and organisations throughout the community who are looking now for a very clear development of policy in this area. So I have asked the portfolio to undertake more work in refining this policy and I am also having the report studied for advice by the National Multicultural Advisory Education Committee, which is very expert and hard working. I hope that early in the new year a more developed and more precise draft will be available for decision and later presentation to the community.

I should point out that it is a complicated and very sensitive task to develop such a policy. The Senate Committee's report was very comprehensive and made some 117 recommendations, some of which would be appropriate for Commonwealth action and some of which would need to be taken up by the States. The matter of co-ordinating a response to this report is certainly not one that can be rushed or done in a superficial fashion. Because of the sensitivity of language policy matters in our multicultural community, it is also very important that all groups that are committed to the expansion of the teaching of minority languages in Australia have an opportunity to be involved in the development of the policy.

A few months work is still to be done before the Government can make a decision about the policy. I assure Senator Colston that continuous work has been done in relation to this matter since the report was received. Programs under the Commonwealth Schools Commission which assist in the development of languages other than English throughout our community have been maintained and, in some cases, increased. The matter is well in hand and I hope that we will have an effective policy approach in national language matters early in the new year.