Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2394 ..
MS FOLLETT (continuing):
Mr Speaker, in other areas - for instance, in the multicultural area - the Liberals have put up a bit of a front. They have said, "We will create an office of multicultural affairs", and so they did. There is not a single extra worker in there. No more resources are allocated to that area. It is merely a front. What lies under that front is the Liberals' real action. For instance, they simply cancelled work on the language policy for the ACT without telling anybody. It is something that had to be dragged out of them in the course of the Estimates Committee. There had been no announcement from this most secretive government of all time. Mr Speaker, stopping the work on that languages policy, I believe, puts the ACT well behind the eight ball in terms of the achievement of literacy levels and language skills throughout our community; and, importantly, also in terms of our tourism and business development approach because, clearly, we need to have trained interpreters and people with language skills in order to expand our horizons and do business outside our borders. Mr Speaker, some very disappointing and quite draconian approaches have been taken to what used to be the Chief Minister's Department but is now nothing but a shell, and a hollow shell at that.
MS McRAE (5.25): I would like to follow on on that issue and come to a point that we were criticised for previously with the estimates process in regard to the Chief Minister's Department. The question of why estimates were so interesting in regard to policy decisions is absolutely crystal clear in terms of how we are dealing with this line appropriation here. It is policy decisions that have driven and made the framework of this budget. When we started to uncover the shallowness of the thinking behind a lot of these policy decisions, the red light started to go off and the real concerns about this budget were made patently clear.
The languages policy is a brilliant example of what is so profoundly wrong with this budget. Without any thought, without any understanding, without any analysis, without any evaluation, the policy was just dumped. Mrs Carnell's response was that it was full of motherhood statements, and she asked why we needed a bit of paper that was full of motherhood statements. Rather than say, "These motherhood statements may have the germ of something good, so let us develop them into something for the good of the community and then allocate dollars in the framework of the budget", the Government simply dumped it.
In dumping it, the Government dropped one of the most important elements of management in the ACT and in Australia today. Underpinning our multicultural society is the fact that it is a multilingual society. The challenge for every government is to deal with the multilingual nature of society, and deal with it fairly; to provide adequate access and equity for all. That does not come from every line manager saying, "Oh, that is a good idea. Maybe tomorrow I will find someone within my department who spoke Pilipino when he was eight and put him on the front counter because he can speak Pilipino". No, it comes from a carefully worked out policy that sets standards, that sets training guidelines, that sets minimum requirements, that itemises and understands the language needs of the community before them and ensures that every department goes ahead with those policies, and then monitors them and evaluates them.