Motion: Indonesia

I second the motion.

Mr Stephen Jones then spoke in Indonesian—

This underscores the importance that we place on government-to-government and people-to-people links with the Republic of Indonesia.

Mr Stephen Jones then spoke in Indonesian—

If language is the window through which we interpret our world, then an understanding of our neighbour's language is an essential part of our living and working together in peace and prosperity. We should do this because Indonesia is our closest neighbour. We should do it because in a few short years Indonesia will be amongst the five largest economies in the world. We should do this because we share a neighbourhood and a mutual interest in peace, security and stability. But most of all, we should do this because it will enrich us all. Visiting each other's countries, enjoying each other's cultures and environments and understanding more about each other's rich and diverse history, can only be good for all of us.

At the moment, there are around 55,000 or 56,000 people who have indicated in the census that they speak Indonesian at home. The Republic of Indonesia advises that they have some 22,000 Indonesian citizens who are living in Australia at the moment, with around 20,000 of those living in the state of New South Wales. So we have a great foundation on which to build stronger mutual ties. However, it is a matter of personal regret that while we have talked about these things we have let some of our foundations slide, particularly in relation to Indonesian language education. Only four per cent of year 12 enrolments in tertiary recognised languages in Australia were in Indonesian. And while there are around 190,000 learners of Indonesian in Australian schools, the majority of this number, some 65 per cent, are in primary school and secondary students between years 7 and 10 make up another 33 per cent of total learners. But, sadly, the majority of these students drop out before they reach high school or senior years of high school. In fact, we have seen a decrease—a steady decline—in the number of Australian students studying Indonesian language at school. This is a decline of some 10,000 students per year between the years 2005 and 2008 alone.

So there are some structural issues that we are going to have to address. We need to have more students coming through primary and secondary school studying Indonesian, and we need to have more students going on to tertiary education and studying Indonesian at a level of proficiency which will enable them to return to the classroom and teach those students Indonesian language.

If we look at the geographic location of Indonesian teachers here, that is also a matter of concern. Overwhelmingly, they are concentrated in the capital cities. It is worth noting—and as the member for Solomon has pointed out—that while the concentration of Indonesian teachers and learners of Indonesians is in the capitals, the majority of our trade with Indonesia comes from regional and rural areas. So we have an imbalance, and we particularly have an imbalance where it matters the most. I am pleased to see that the Shorten Labor opposition was focused on this in our pre-election commitments in 2016. We promised 100 scholarships a year to Australian schoolteachers so that they could further develop their Asian language skills—a scholarship of around $20,000 each to allow them to go overseas to deepen their knowledge and their language skills. I'm also pleased that the government's focus on the New Colombo Plan has included Indonesia in its earliest phases.

But much more needs to be done. We cannot just be talking about it; we must do it. I say that members of parliament, like the member for Solomon, should be leading by example and explaining why this is so important.