Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2395 ..
MS McRAE (continuing):
That is just one element of a language policy. It is the first and most important element, in my book, to guarantee that every single service that is provided by government is accessible in a fair and equitable way by every Australian, irrespective of what their first language is. This Government has failed even to understand that basic principle, never mind to provide for it in the Chief Minister's Department, and never mind even to back it up with any financial backing.
The second element within that is that not only do people speak a diversity of languages, but also they have sight impairment, they have hearing impairment, and sometimes they are unable to speak clearly. So it is not just our multicultural society that we have to take care of. Within that multilingual multitude there are people who have specific disabilities in terms of communication. Again the Chief Minister, by abolishing any overarching concern for social policy, has taken no account of the leadership that her department should be taking in terms of making sure that all ACT government services are accessible and equitable, not only to our multilingual non-English-speakers - - -
Ms Follett: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. How common is it for the Appropriation Bill to be debated without the presence of the Treasurer?
MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order.
Ms Follett: Do you reckon?
MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Continue, Ms McRae.
MS McRAE: We have lost leadership and policy which, in my book, should be at the very centre of what drove this entire budget. What are we here for? What are our services for? Whom are they for? How are we going to provide them in such a way that everyone in the ACT has an equal, accessible, equitable way of receiving those services? Through the glib abandonment of a languages policy, that responsibility has been denied. Within a languages policy comes the capacity to set standards about communication. (Quorum formed) So first we abandon our multicultural community, our disabled community, and then we abandon any capacity to set standards about communication.
A language policy can determine what sort of English should be used, how a publication is set out, the nature of the language that is used routinely in correspondence, and the basic requirements of any department in terms of communicating with the general public. We can deal with English standards as well; standards of politeness, standards of genre, standards of timeliness, and standards of basic language. Without a language policy we have no overarching, determining, driving policy that expresses back to our community and to each and every government service what basic standards are, how a service is to be delivered, and then how languages are to be monitored within the ACT.
Mrs Carnell: So why did you take so long to get up a draft?
MS McRAE: We hear the predictable call from Mrs Carnell about us. Mrs Carnell, you are the one in government. Yours is the budget we are looking at right now.