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Thursday, 27 November 1997
Page: 11512

Dr KEMP (Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service)(3.56 p.m.) —We have certainly reached the fag end of the Labor Party's policy initiatives. What we heard in the speech from the member for Werriwa (Mr Latham) is nothing more than empty rhetoric. It is rhetoric from a party with an appalling record in education and training—a party that never had, throughout its 13 years in government, any commitment to decent literacy standards in this country, and it has not, in its draft platform, committed itself to setting decent standards for literacy. Therefore, it has doomed many young people in this country to prolonged unemployment.

It is a party that throughout its 13 years of government, according to the member for Sydney (Mr Peter Baldwin), neglected vocational education and training opportunities. It is a party that let the apprenticeship system die or attempted to run down that system to the point where it simply disappeared from sight. As we know, in 1995 this country had the lowest number of young people in apprenticeships and traineeships for 30 years. In its university policies it was a party which discriminated relentlessly against Australian students in favour of students from overseas. It forced tens of thousands of qualified students to stay out of universities, although they wanted to gain entry, while at the same time admitting overseas students. It gave greater rights to students from other countries than it gave to Australian students to gain entry to Australian universities.

Mr Latham —They are not taxpayers. They do not pay taxes.

Dr KEMP —Would you prefer students outside to be paying taxes so others could be educated in the universities? This is the sense of equity that the Labor Party has. In what kind of fevered imagination is it fair to shut qualified Australian students out of universities, force them to pay for the education of other Australian students and deny them the right, although they are qualified, to invest in their own education? That is the kind of sick, vicious, ideological attitude that the Australian Labor Party applied in its higher education policies.

This government believes that all young Australians ought to have access to the education and training opportunities that they will need to get jobs and keep jobs in an increasingly competitive world. It is the Labor Party that refused to provide those opportunities to tens of thousands of young Australians—whether they were the young Australians that they would not let into the universities, whether they were the young Australians that they were denying apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities to, or whether they were the tens of thousands of young Australians on the unemployment queues who were there because they did not have the literacy and numeracy skills which they desperately needed to get jobs and which throughout 13 years of government the Australian Labor Party did nothing whatever to help them obtain. The member for Werriwa is well known for the fact that he has some interest—an ill-informed, misconceived, ideological interest—in university policy. He seems to have no interest whatever in the 70 per cent of young Australians who—

Mr Latham —Sixty per cent!

Dr KEMP —He does not understand. It is 60 per cent of year 12 leavers, but the member for Werriwa might like to understand the fact that many young people do not get through to year 12. It is 70 per cent of school leavers who do not go on to university. He has no interest in them whatever. They had no interest in these young people during their 13 years of government. The member for Sydney had the honesty to admit this, but the member for Werriwa did not show any interest and does not show any interest in these young people.

The government believes in expanding places in universities and expanding the resources available to universities. The mem ber for Werriwa criticises the government for the efficiency decisions that were made in our first budget. He is criticising the government, as the Labor Party so often does, for not keeping the Labor Party's promises about the future—promises that were unkeepable because of the $10 billion hole that the Labor Party left the Australian people and which this government has responsibly dealt with.

This government has pursued policies which are changing the mix of funding between public and private for Australia's universities with the objective of opening up places in universities and expanding the resources available to Australia's universities so they can provide an internationally competitive education. In 1997, there are 17,000 more undergraduate places in Australian universities than there were in 1996. The number of HECS liable undergraduate places will increase each year to the year 2000. Over 368,000 undergraduate places will be available in Australia's universities by that year, compared with less than 353,000 in 1996.

From 1998, next year, the government will pay the universities, for the first time, for students who are over-enrolled above their target numbers. The universities will receive the minimum differential HECS for those over-enrolled students. For the first time, there will be payment for those additional places to encourage the universities to admit those students. The Labor Party did not pay a cent for those places, and that is one of the reasons the number of students in Australian universities will be increasing over the next few years.

I am sorry the member for Werriwa was not here to listen to some of these key facts, and I will just repeat them for his benefit. This year there will be 17,000 more undergraduates than there were last year. In every year between now and the year 2000, there will be more government funded undergraduate places in Australian universities and more government funding than there were in the last year of the Labor government. This year it is expanding. From now to the end of the century, this government will be funding Australian universities at a higher level than the Labor Party funded them in its last year of office, and there will be thousands more places in Australian universities.

The member for Werriwa may not want to face up to these uncomfortable facts, but they are the realities. He is still enmired and enmeshed in the empty rhetoric that accompanied the efficiency savings in this government's first budget. He still cannot get past those unkeepable promises that the Labor Party put forward in its forward estimates because it left a $10 billion hole which someone, whichever government was in power, would have had to address. It is sheer fantasy for the member for Werriwa to suggest that those moneys would have been left there.

What we are doing is freeing up the universities so total university resources can increase. There will be over $700 million derived by the universities this year from sources other than Commonwealth funding. We will see over the next few years an increasing amount of university revenue derived from those sources, and we will see a very significant expansion in the total resources available to universities.

Mr Latham —You are privatising universities.

Dr KEMP —The member for Werriwa wants to stand up in this House and tell the Australian people that one of the great policies of the Labor Party at the next election will be that it will reinstate the discrimination against Australian students in favour of overseas students. The Labor Party will be happy to welcome in students from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong and allow those young people and their families from those countries to invest in their future education in Australia—education that will make those countries more competitive, that will challenge Australian jobs through international competition and that will take those skills out of Australian universities back to their home countries so they can compete more effectively with Australia—while forcing Australian students, if they want to get entry to an Australian university on the same terms, to give up their Australian citizenship and change their passport. Why should an Australian student be forced to give up their Austral ian passport to get access to one of those places in Australian universities? That is the sick, vicious and ideological attitude to equity that permeates the Australian Labor Party. It cannot even see straight in devising its empty policies.

I will be very happy to fight the next election on the basis of those policies that the Labor Party has put forward—policies which are discriminatory, unfair, inequitable and will reduce the number of places in Australian universities available to Australian students. They will restrict the number of places. Why is the Labor Party planning to go to the next election with the policy of cutting the number of places in Australian universities? Over and above the HECS funded places, which are increasing and which will increase further beyond next year—there will be 13,000 additional HECS funded places in Australian universities between 1998 and the year 2000; so the government is increasing places—Australian students, having had that discrimination removed, will be able to invest in their own education.

The universities can offer up to 25 per cent of the government funded places in their courses to those students. That could lead to a very substantial increase in the number of places. I certainly do not believe that we will see an increase up to the figure of 90,000 that I used, which is based on 25 per cent of the 360,000 undergraduates in Australian universities—a conservative figure of what is permissible under the government's policy—but we will see Australian students coming into Australian universities on those terms and expanding the number of places.

The government is, of course, also offering extra help for disadvantaged Australian students. There will be 4,000 merit based equity scholarship students in Australian universities by the year 2000. I point out that the University of Western Sydney, which is, I know, attended by many young people from the seat of Werriwa, is in 1997 getting more of these places than any other university in New South Wales.

There is now much more opportunity for students to get a quality education in Australia's universities. Not only has the govern ment provided an additional $90 million for research infrastructure, an additional $9.3 million for Australian postgraduate awards and an additional $30 million for collaborative research in a strategic partnerships program with industry but also it has given the universities the opportunity to increase the resources that are available to them. They are better resourced today than they have ever been before in Australia's history and they will be better resourced tomorrow than they are today and than they have ever been before as a result of this government's policy. Our policies are throwing open the doors to opportunity.

One of the most important things is that the quality of teaching in the universities should continue to be raised to make sure that Australian students get the best education in the world. The government has instituted the Australian Awards for University Teaching to encourage teaching excellence. The first awards were handed out in the Great Hall of Parliament House earlier this week. I can tell you that the effect of those awards, the inspiration that they give to university teachers, is really quite outstanding. It complements the government's initiative in establishing the Committee for University Teaching and Development to facilitate further practical improvements in university teaching.

In addition, the higher education equity program helps disadvantaged students admitted to university. There is a need to increase opportunities for all young Australians in those post school years. There are very large numbers of students now coming into the traineeship and apprenticeship system. The numbers of young people in traineeships was up some 44 per cent last year over the previous year. There has been an increase in students in vocational education and training and there has been an increase in university places. (Time expired)