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Tuesday, 23 September 1997
Page: 6793

(Question No. 702)

Senator Margetts asked the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 July 1997:

(1) Is the Minister aware that Murdoch University is proposing to lease part of its campus to Mobil Oil Australia Ltd to build a service station, convenience store, fast food outlet, icecream kiosk, lottery and newspaper agency, dry-cleaning shop and liquor store.

(2) Is the Minister aware that local residents and the local government authority have expressed concern to the university about this proposal.

(3) (a) Is the Minister aware that there are three other service stations within one kilometre of the university, including one directly across the road from the university's front entrance; and (b) does the Minister have concerns about the proposal.

(4) Is the Minister concerned that this sort of development could set a precedent for other universities to make quick profits by leasing part of their land for commercial developments and that these developments are not subject to the usual local government approval process.

(5) Are developments such as this an appropriate use of public land which is reserved for education.

(6) Could such developments cause anxiety in the community and undermine the profitability of other small businesses which are required to comply with local government regulations.

(7) Is any action being planned to review or reject the university's proposal for commercial development of its campus; if not, why not.

Senator Vanstone —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) I am not aware of Murdoch University's proposal to lease part of its campus. My Department has also informed me that the University's Education Profile for the 1997-2000 period does not refer to this proposal.

(2) I am not, nor is my Department, aware that concern has been expressed in the local community about the proposal.

(3) (a) I am not, nor is my Department, aware that there are three other service stations within one kilometre of the university.

(3) (b) The Commonwealth has no concerns regarding the commercial developments undertaken by universities providing that they are consistent with the National Competition Principles. The principles require the elimination of any net competitive advantages or disadvantages that publicly owned or funded organisations enjoy simply as a result of their public sector ownership or support. Significant progress has been made in developing a framework to implement these principles. Specifically, the Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (of which I am a member) recently endorsed a coordinated policy position for the implementation of competition policy in the higher education sector. One of the principles agreed by the Council is that:

.   those activities that are purely commercial, such as property development and manufacturing for retail or wholesale, should be structur ally separate and subject to a fully commercial regime.

(4) Universities are established under State Legislation and accordingly issues relating to the use of University land are the responsibility of the State Government.

(5) This issue regarding location of commercial activities should be directed to the Western Australian Government and Local Government Authorities.

(6) The Commonwealth expects that universities comply with all Local and State Government regulations. However, the compliance with Local Government regulations by universities is a matter that should be taken up with the relevant Local Government authority and the State Government.

(7) As mentioned above, university land is a State responsibility and this issue must be taken up with the State Government.