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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3529

Senator WATSON (2:49 PM) —My question is directed to Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, representing the Minister for Education. As a result of special coalition funding, the University of Tasmania was able to lift the proportion of Tasmanians with bachelor’s degrees or above from 11 to 15 per cent. Will the government live up to its rhetoric about the education revolution so that, in the case of the University of Tasmania, it is in a position to lift the proportion of Tasmanians with a bachelor’s degree or above from 15 to 20 per cent, which is the national average?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Watson for his question, and I wish him well in his retirement, as one of the 14 senators leaving today. The question he asks with regard to the University of Tasmania and the fact that the Rudd Labor government has committed so much to the higher education system in such a short time are duly noted. Also, I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the fact that, in the first six months of this government, we have introduced measures that will improve substantially the opportunities for people to embark upon a tertiary education.

With regard to the specific matters he raises about the University of Tasmania, I would like to seek further advice from the minister, and I will do so.

Senator WATSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the government properly index the Commonwealth Grants Scheme so that universities can cover their increasing cost of education in future years and, further, will the government agree to fully fund research under the national competitive research arrangements?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —That is a question I can directly deal with, because that is more to do with my responsibilities. The issue of the full cost of research is a matter that you see before the current review into the national innovation system that is being chaired by Dr Terry Cutler. I am anticipating the report will be delivered to the government by 31 July. One of the specific measures under that review is an examination of the full cost of research.

As the senator, I am sure, is aware, there has been in recent times a significant decline in the level of contribution from public sources towards the cost of research and in particular projects as universities are being required to increasingly undertake funding arrangements by which they draw upon their own resources. So, the options that are before the government do raise some serious financial questions that will need to be considered in the context of the government’s response to that review. A number of countries around the world are looking at these issues—England in recent times, the United States and, of course, New Zealand, being but three—so there are a range of options for the government to pursue. I am looking forward to that report being delivered on the 31st and to a response coming back from the government by the end of the year.