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Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Page: 2371

Senator HARRADINE —My question to is to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Senator Vanstone. Is it a fact that Treasury has a specific proposal to remove tax exemption status for universities? If that is a fact, has your department been consulted about that matter and, if so, what has their advice been on the matter? What are the implications of removal of tax exemption status for universities and for other organisations, including charitable educational organisations?

Senator VANSTONE —Senator, thank you for that question. I do not have a brief that will allow me to easily tell you now when those matters were last discussed with me, but I will go back and get that information and come back to you as soon as I can. I am not sure that it follows that there are necessarily implications for all others but, of course, there would be for some. It is a serious question that deserves a serious answer, and I will get you one.

Senator HARRADINE —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. What I am really asking you, Minister, is: are you aware of the specific proposal? What advice has been given by your department in respect of this matter? And I think that is a matter that we should all be privy to. Are you aware of the vice-chancellors' concern expressed as recently as last week on this matter?

Senator VANSTONE —No, I am not aware of any concern expressed by vice-chancellors on this matter last week. Some matters were discussed with me last week that vice-chancellors had raised, but that one was not. This may be in the pipeline with a range of other things. As I said, to say it is a very serious question probably understates it. It is not only serious but it also has quite far-reaching implications. I will come back to you with a serious and well considered answer.

Senator Hill —Madam President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper .

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Hill has asked that further questions be placed on notice.

Senator Hill —The hour is up.

Senator Faulkner —What time did we start?

The PRESIDENT —I believe I called for questions at 2 o'clock.

Senator Faulkner —On a point of order, Madam President. I understand that, according to the clerks' timing, question time began at one minute past two. In this particular case, Senator Hill has only got it wrong by about 30 seconds.

Senator Hill —That is very witty.

Senator Faulkner —It is not intended to be witty, Senator Hill. I appreciate your kindness in that regard, but we just want to make sure there is an hour for questions without notice, which is something that you, properly, always insisted on when you were in opposition and the then Labor government also was keen to ensure occurred.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Hill has asked that questions be placed on notice.

Senator Hill —If you tell me we started late, I will allow another question, but my understanding is that we started on time.

The PRESIDENT —I do not know what the journals of the Senate show. I understand that the journals show one minute past 2 o'clock as the time we started.

Senator Hill —All right.