05 September 2006

Australian Government committed to helping migrants learn English

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The Australian Government has dismissed opposition claims that a major financial cut has been made to an English language programme aimed at helping migrants and refugees settle better in the country.

In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Robb, reacted to Labor MP Kevin Rudd's remarks on Television that the Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP) had seen $11m cut from its budget.

“Unfortunately, in running this red herring, Mr Rudd avoided the question which asked did he support the Prime Minister’s observation that new migrants should embrace Australian values, accept our culture and learn English.” Mr Robb said.

“The Government regards English as a priority for migrants and refugees and is committed to providing to those who need it, tuition and the tools necessary for a working knowledge of Australia’s national language.

“The Government is focused on helping new migrants integrate quickly into the community. A functional level of English is fundamental to this objective.”

The Government insists it has ensured that no eligible client is denied access to their entitlement of 510 hours of English tuition under the Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP).

The Government has put significant extra resources into the programme. In fact the government increased funding by $36.8 million in 2004 to cater for young humanitarian entrants with special needs.

Mr Robb said the government adjusted funding for the AMEP each year, based on demand estimates. Last year’s spend was $139 million. This year, the appropriation has gone up to $153.7 million based on estimates of the amount of people requiring intensive programs.

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