Under questioning today, the Government acknowledged that it had cut funding for Asian languages programs in schools in the 2011 budget and has not provided any extra funding since then, making one of the centrepieces of yesterday's white paper nothing more than an unfunded "broad objective".
"Actions speak louder than words, and the Gillard Government's actions on teaching our schoolchildren Asian languages show that they are a much lower priority than funding coal railways and selling more coal to China," Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"I asked Minister Evans to confirm that the government had ended funding for the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program and had not provided funding in the budget for Asian language programs or teachers.
"If the Government were truly committed to preparing us for the Asian century, then surely actions should speak louder than words?
"With fewer year 12 students studying Indonesian than there were in 1972, we have a serious need for funding to reverse this trend.
"Rather than respond to the need for funding, Minister Evans talked about the need for cultural change and for students to think about the importance of learning languages.
"If the Government wants to build closer ties with Asian countries, it will need a lot more than mining deals and a lot of unfunded language and cultural ventures.
"We need to put the effort in to build relationships based on more than coal and iron ore, and that will take a serious investment in education and culture, for which we need a proper mining tax, cuts to fossil fuel handouts, reform of superannuation and more to make the funds available."
Christine Milne asked Senator Chris Evans on funding cuts to Asian language programs in schools.
I refer to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper which includes as a key priority ensuring every student has continuous access to high quality Asian language education. Can I ask the Minister, can you confirm that the Government ended the funding for the national Asian languages and studies in schools program in the 2011 budget, has made no significant further ongoing funding commitment for Asian languages and studies in Australian schools since then. Isn't the Government hypocritical in suggesting that it has a commitment to Asian languages, and don't actions speak louder than words?