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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 629

Mr KEOGH (BOWMAN, QUEENSLAND) - I ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to an article in the 'Australian Financial Review' last Friday on the Australian Government's English language training scheme for migrants.

Mr Snedden - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister for Immigration has been asked about 30 questions this session, 26 of which have come from his own side. This question is clearly another Dorothy Dixer.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! No point of order is involved.

Mr KEOGH - I might say that I have never had anyone prepare my questions for me, and that applies on this occasion.

Opposition members - Oh!

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Chair will not tolerate interjections as they have been coming from both sides of the House. I ask the House to come to order. If it does not, I will certainly take the appropriate action.

Mr KEOGH - Does the Minister for Immigration agree that the rigid system and methodology of teaching known as the Australian situational method, which has been in use for some 25 years or more, is now out of date and unsatisfactory? Further, does the Minister agree that the non-compulsory policy of the Department in regard to preembarkation language training has been mainly responsible for the failure of many migrants to cope with the English language on their arrival in this country?

Mr GRASSBY (RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Immigration) - In reply to the honourable member I might say that he has given distinguished service as a member of the Immigration Advisory Council and I am very pleased to have a question from him on a matter which obviously interests him and most other members of the Parliament.

Mr McMahon - I raise a point of order. I invite your attention, Mr Speaker, to standing order 145 which says:

An answer shall be relevant to the question.

I ask you, sir, whether this answer is relevant to the question. If you hold that it is inconsistent with present practice I will ask you to submit your interpretation of standing order 145 to the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! No point of order is involved. This has been the general practice of the House all the time.

Mr GRASSBY - Thank you, Mr Speaker. The right honourable member for Lowe is referring to an answer I was about to give. I have not given it yet so I cannot see how he can take exception to it. When I was interrupted by the right honourable member for Lowe I was about to say that the article in the 'Financial Review' to which my attention has been drawn and which has been referred to by the honourable member for Bowman does pose a series of serious criticisms about the teaching of English to migrants over the last quarter of a century. I want to say that some of the criticisms are quite valid. I am concerned that the program has not been as successful or as efficacious as it ought to have been. I do not accept all of the points made in that article but I do say that it is time for new initiatives.

One of the new initiatives to which I am giving consideration is the awarding of integration fellowships for people who speak English- teachers, actuallyand who come from major countries of migration, in order to give an opportunity to those people to come as fellows to Australian schools, or as additional staff members. They would be able to bring something of the background of migrants not only to migrant children here but also to our own children in the schools. This would broaden the whole of the system of teaching English and also bring integration into the schools from all points of view, the point of view of the Australain child as well as the migrant child. This, I think, would give some better pointers to some of the sins of omission, if you like, that we have been guilty of, perhaps through ignorance or perhaps because we have not had the proper appreciation of this problem. But after 25 years it is time that we got the experience, recognised the problem and took some new initiatives. I hope to take that initiative I referred to as one of the new initiatives in relation to this matter. I may say also that when some honourable members take an interest in this subject that is no reason to denigrate them. I commend all honourable members on all sides of the House who have taken some interest in the problem of the settlement of people who have been brought here over a period of a quarter of a century.

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