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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1308

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (18:46): I thank Senator Rhiannon for her contribution. I do not think there is any disagreement here about the board needing to be representative. We have not actually specified in the bill the cohorts that would be represented, and this amendment, Greens amendment (4), seeks to add one particular group—that is, the ELICOS group—without actually considering the others.

We have not gone for something that is prescriptive—that says that there must be one representative of this and one representative of that. So I cannot support the amendment in its current form, in the sense that it just specifies one group and other groups will say, 'Well, why aren't we specified in the bill?' What I would suggest is that either I am going to have to oppose it and say that this is naturally what we will do, that my intention would be to have a cross-sector representative group, or, having looked at the amendment, I would be happy to support the amendment if the senator was prepared to move it with a full stop at the end of 'sector' and not put 'including providers of English language intensive courses for overseas students'—on the understanding that they, of course, would be one of the groups represented. But under this amendment only one of them is named and the others are not named. So the intent I agree with—that it be broadly representative—and, if the senator is prepared to drop that last bit out of the amendment, I will accept the amendment. That would give her a broad policy intent, which is to have recognised that we need a broader group with a range of experiences. But I do not think we should just name one group that ought to be representative without thinking about the overall balance.

So if the senator is prepared to do that, to put a full stop where the comma is before the last bit, I am prepared to accept the amendment; otherwise, I will have to oppose the amendment.