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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 93

Dr KEMP (Education, Training and Youth Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (12:57 PM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The important role higher education plays in Australia's social and economic development is the rationale for the government's substantial investment in it, and policies designed to ensure that we realise the greatest possible individual and collective benefits.

Australia already has a good higher education system, but there is always scope for improvement. The government has a number of objectives which flow from this position.

. It aims to continue to increase access to post secondary education, including higher education, so that all who can benefit will have access. The higher education system must offer choices that meet varied needs. Lifelong learning is already a feature of our education system but we need to ensure a whole-of-life focus. We need a good foundation in primary school as well as opportunities for later reskilling.

. The government also recognises that collaboration between universities and industry is critical to expanding our knowledge base and generating wealth. By providing enhanced opportunities for university researchers and research training students to collaborate with industry, Australia will be better able to position itself in the global knowledge market.

The various provisions of this bill should be seen in the context of the government's pursuit of these goals.

The government has created an extra 10,000 Commonwealth funded places for undergraduate students in the past two years. In 1998 the Commonwealth will fund 361,925 undergraduate student places in universities. This is a record number. To this figure can be added enrolments in addition to those undergraduate places funded by the Commonwealth. To encourage universities to offer these places, the government is offering partial funding of about $2,500 a place. In 1998 the universities offered around 29,000 of these extra places.

Not only is the government providing additional opportunities for undergraduate students, but it is also extending greater opportunities for postgraduate research training students. The number of research students has increased each year under the coalition government. We will also be providing additional funding to James Cook University of North Queensland to enhance access to higher education in that region.

This government has confirmed its commitment to maintain public funding levels for higher education. This year, universities will receive $5.5 billion from the government (including HECS contributions). Commonwealth funding for each full-time equivalent student will be more than $11,400, a significant increase on 1996 funding.

Prior to the election, the government announced that it would increase collaboration between universities and industry by provid ing an additional $58.1 million over three financial years for the Strategic Partnerships-Industry Research and Training Scheme. Under this bill, an additional $1.6 million will be provided to universities in 1999. A further $22.8 million will be provided in 2000.

Consistent with this government's commitment to maintaining public funding levels for higher education, the bill provides for a total net increase of $9,693,000 to 1998 funds. This funding provides supplementation for price movements and additional superannuation expenses incurred by institutions. It also includes an increase of $5,943,000 in the 1998 funding limit for special grants, offset by an equivalent underexpenditure in 1997. The bill also provides funding in total for the years 1999 and 2000. Funding for 1999 is increased by $3,885,393,000 to $3,893,640,000, and the funding limit for 2000 is set at $3,706,333,000.

In legislating funds for 1999 and 2000, the bill confirms to higher education institutions the overall funding levels detailed in the Higher education funding report for the 1998-2000 triennium. This bill also demonstrates this government's support for the continued growth of Australia's education and training export industry. The bill amends the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 to provide funding for expenditure on the international promotion of Australian education and training services by Australian Education International. AEI was previously known as the Australian International Education Foundation. The new name reflects new funding arrangements and the new direction set for it by the government.

In 1998 AEI will receive $1,016,000. In 1999 this will rise to $2,468,000, and by 2000 AEI will be funded to the extent of $3,883,000. It will have a number of key responsibilities in the areas of marketing, government-to-government coordination, research, facilitating access to markets, providing information, and awareness raising. This measure will improve promotion of Australia's international education and training industry.

For a number of years successive Commonwealth governments have provided funding to the University of Notre Dame Australia for its Broome campus on a year-by-year basis. To provide greater certainty to the university and to allow it to build on the valuable work that it does in Broome, the bill includes the University of Notre Dame Australia in the act so that it is able to receive grants for operating purposes. Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr McClelland) adjourned.