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Australian National University Amendment (Autonomy) Bill 1993
Introduced by: Senator J. Tierney
Commencement: Royal Assent
To amend the Australian National University Act 1991 in order to ensure that the Australian National University Council retains control over the application of moneys payable to the University.
In 1990, a committee chaired by Sir Ninian Stephen conducted a review of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University (the University), which includes the John Curtin School of Medical Research. 1 One of the recommendations of the Stephen Committee was that the funding of the JCSMR be transferred from the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) to the National Health and Medical Research Council. 2 Subsequently, the Minister for Employment, Education and Training made arrangements to transfer funding responsibility for the JCSMR to the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services (DHHCS). An agreement between the University and the Department providing administrative arrangements for the funding of the University for the purposes of the JCSMR was eventually signed on 12 May 1992. 3
In the meantime, the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training inquired into the proposed changes in the funding and administrative arrangements for the JCSMR. When it reported in April 1992, the eight member committee divided. The four ALP members concluded that "the particular Departmental source of funding is of no practical import to [the JCSMR]", and recommended the retention of arrangements for funding through DHHCS. 4 The one Democrat senator and three Liberal senators on the Committee found disadvantages in the transfer of funding responsibility to DHHCS, and saw "the removal of [the JCSMR's] funding from the Department that is responsible for funding universities as a whole (DEET), and its placement in DHHCS as an unwarranted and unnecessary interference in the activities and administration of [the University]." 5
The University has opposed the transfer of funding responsibility as involving an intrusion into its autonomy. 6 In the University's Annual Report, it was stated: "The University has taken every opportunity to protest the Government's decision to transfer the funding for [the JCSMR] out of the recurrent budget for the Institute as a whole. Funding from a different source for an established large part of the Institute limits the Council in exercising its responsibility for the management of the whole University." 7
The Institute of Advanced Studies, including the JCSMR, is currently subject to five- yearly reviews of performance and resources. 8 The first such review is due to take place in 1995, and will be conducted by the University and the Australian Research Council. 9
When first enacted, s.42 of the Australian National University Act 1991 (ANU Act) provided that the Minister was to determine the amounts and the times at which money allocated by the Parliament was to be paid to the University. A Bill to amend s.42 to restrict the Minister's discretion was passed by the Senate in October 1992, 10 but was not debated by the House of Representatives. Subsequently, s.42 was repealed by the Higher Education Funding Amendment (No.2) Act 1992, 11 making it
necessary for a new Bill to be introduced. The proposed Act will restore s.42 to the ANU Act, but
with restrictions on the exercise of the Minister's discretion under the section to prevent the transfer of control over the application of money appropriated by Parliament to a body other than the University Council.
Clause 3 inserts a new section 42 into the ANU Act. Proposed sub- section 42(3) restores the Minister's power to give directions as to the amounts in which and the times at which money appropriated by the Parliament is to be paid to the University.
However, proposed sub- section 42(5) prohibits the Minister from exercising the power in proposed sub- section (3) so as to effectively place control of the application of funding, or the general control or management of the University, in a body other than the University Council.
Proposed sub- section 42(6) provides that any direction of the Minister, which has been given or is given in the future, which is contrary to proposed sub- section (5) is of no effect.
Proposed sub- section 42(1) provides that the new s.42 takes effect in spite of any provision of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988.
1. Australian National University Act 1991, s.19.
2. Report of the Committee to Review the Institute of Advanced Studies, October 1990, p.52.
3. The Australian National University, Annual Report 1992, p. 12.
4. Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, April 1992, p.104.
5. Ibid., p.105.
6. Ibid., pp.74- 75.
7. The Australian National University, Annual Report 1992, p. 12.
8. See Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, April 1992, p.93.
9. Canberra Times, Saturday 26 February 1994, p.C2.
10. Senate, Parliamentary Debates, 6 October and 5 November 1992, p. 1478.
11. s.37 and Schedule.
Chris Horan (Ph. 06 2772476)
Bills Digest Service 9 March 1994
Parliamentary Research Service
This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Commonwealth of Australia 1994.
Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.
Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1994.