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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22716

Ms MACKLIN (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware of comments by the new head of the Group of Eight universities, Professor Ian Chubb, that he does not believe that `capacity to pay should be able to get you into a degree which is not otherwise available'? Minister, don't the Howard government's unfair university changes mean that half of all university places will be reserved for full fee paying students? When will the minister take Professor Chubb's advice and make sure that no Australian undergraduate can jump the queue by paying $100,000 for a university degree?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I am asked about the views of Professor Ian Chubb, the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University. I can confirm as a result of meeting with and speaking with Professor Chubb early this morning that he is doing everything he possibly can to see that these reforms are passed by the Australian parliament.

I should also inform the Australian public, contrary to the implications in that question, that under this government the first $1½ billion of extra public money in the first four years and the extra $10.6 billion of taxpayers' hard-earned money into the university sector in the first 10 years includes full funding for 25,000 overenrolled places that would otherwise disappear from universities and 6,500 extra HECS places. It includes extra money—$122 million—for 60 universities and campuses servicing regional and rural Australia. For the very first time in recent memory it includes $161 million for scholarships worth up to $6,000 for students to support their living costs. One other thing this government is determined to do is to see that those students, Australian citizens, who do miss out on HECS places determined primarily on merit—apart from the 40,000 who got a place by going through TAFE or using life experience or other opportunities given to them by universities—will have no less a right to be full fee paying students in an Australian university than the 118,000 international students we currently welcome to Australian universities.

It is a travesty that the Australian Labor Party is proposing to ban and to throw out from Australian universities 9,700 Australians who currently pay their own way, without any support from the taxpayer, having been determined as eligible for university entry by those universities. Let us be very clear about this: the Labor Party is saying that the only way an Australian citizen will ever be able to have an opportunity for a full fee-paying place in an Australian university is to go overseas and sell their passport. We do not accept that. This is a policy that needs to be supported. It is supported by Australia's university leadership, and the Labor Party ought to get out of the way and let us get on with helping Australia.