Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Higher Education: Languages
At the request of Senator Walsh, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Murdoch University has proposed to cut its Indonesian language courses in 2021,
(ii) Latrobe University has proposed to cut its Indonesian and Hindi language courses in 2021,
(iii) Swinburne University has proposed to cut its entire language program, including Japanese and Mandarin in 2021, and
(iv) these cuts will reduce the number of Australian university students studying Asian languages for years to come, and are a result of the Government's tertiary funding cuts;
(b) further notes that:
(i) increasing Australia's Asia capability, including through the study of languages, is vital for Australia to engage with the Indo-Pacific region and support our economic recovery, and
(ii) the study of Asian languages is important for strengthening the people-to-people links that will be critical in diversifying Australia's economic relationships in the Indo-Pacific region; and
(c) calls on the Australian Government to take urgent steps to:
(i) make the study of Asian languages a national priority, and
(ii) properly fund universities.
The Morrison government is providing a record $18 billion for universities this year, rising to around $20 billion by 2024. Universities are autonomous institutions responsible for their own decisions. The department has not received any request to approve the closure of language courses. Our government proudly supports a multicultural Australia and encourages Australians to learn another language. Our job-ready graduates reforms will see students who study a language pay 42 per cent less and, together with the additional $298½ million in the budget for more domestic university places, will mean around 32,000 Australians will get the opportunity to go to a university next year.
Labor continues to bolster China's calculated takeover of Australia's prime agricultural land, critical assets and water entitlements, as well as its manipulation of governments here in Australia and worldwide. Universities respond to demand. Therefore, the cuts to Asian languages are an indication of undesirable courses, not a lack of federal government funding. I note Labor pledged $32 million to strengthen Asian languages if it won the 2019 federal election under Bill Shorten. Labor lost that election, and, therefore, lost its right to govern as patsies for the Chinese Communist regime. Labor should read Australian public sentiment towards China's current aggressive economic action and lack of dialogue with the Australian government. One Nation will not support Labor's motion to fund more Asian languages.
Universities are cutting courses and slashing jobs. The combined blows of COVID-19 and funding cuts are devastating. We should prioritise and expand education in languages and cultures, especially those in the Asia-Pacific, and reject these harsh, nonsensical cuts to language programs.
In its submission to the job-ready graduates bill inquiry, the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities said:
Successful language study involves the acquisition of both linguistic skills and cultural knowledge … the new funding system poses the risk of enforcing a language/culture divide.
Some of the blame for these cuts must be attributed to short-sighted university management, certainly, but we should not let the government off the hook. Humanities programs were squarely the target of the so-called job-ready graduates measures. These cuts are a result of this government's juvenile hatred for humanities, and this country will suffer as a result.