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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2087

Mr HOLLIS(2.28) —Mr Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on these important educational matters. I listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) and I saw him shed his crocodile tears about the tertiary education assistance scheme. I would ask the honourable member for Ryan what the former Government did in seven years about the TEAS allowance. It did absolutely nothing. He mentioned the tying of the TEAS allowance to the unemployment benefit. One must ask whether he would have reduced the level of the unemployment benefit. It is not good enough for members of the Opposition to cry crocodile tears about the TEAS allowance. The honourable member for Ryan also spoke about broken promises. Honourable members on the other side of the chamber should be experts at broken promises because we had seven years of borken promises from them. It should be pointed out that this Government would have been able to do more in the education field if it had not been faced with a massive deficit of $9.5 billion when it came to office.

The honourable member for Ryan scraped the bottom of the barrel when he engaged in the old scare stories about the Catholic education system. Let him come to my electorate and look at the category 2 and category 3 Catholic schools and see what they have and what they will get when the Government increases the allocation to these most disadvantaged sections of the educational field. So let us hear no more of these scare stories about Roman Catholic schools. There are many Roman Catholic schools in my electorate. They understand the Government's education priorities. Let us have no more of these scare stories, no more crocodile tears about the TEAS allowance and no more stories about broken promises because the previous Government during its seven years in office did absolutely nothing. The shambles that the education system was in when we came to government was caused because the previous Government had control of that system for seven years. The Labor Government has a commitment to all sectors of education, not just to the wealthy sector that is so much a part of the other side. During the life of this Government many of the disadvantages of the education system will be corrected. No doubt during this debate we will hear a lot from the Opposition. As I said before, let us look at the previous Government's record of seven years of broken promises when it had control of education.

I should like to speak briefly on the Tertiary Education Commission guidelines. I believe the guidelines are a measure of the place education holds in this Government's priorities. After years of neglect of the tertiary sector of education there is to be a real increase in funding for this most important sector. This Government will also make an important contribution to rational and stable planning for and by tertiary institutions through the restoration of retrospective cost supplementation.

Mr Cowan —Could you explain that?

Mr HOLLIS —If the honourable member cannot understand it he can come down and see me in my office and I will be happy to explain it to him. Obviously Opposition members know absolutely nothing about education. I will be pleased to deal with the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Cowan) in my office afterwards. If he would like to come there I will explain what it means. This Government will also take the first and significant step towards ensuring greater participation in higher education and more equitable participation by disadvantaged groups. If the honourable member would like to know what that means he can come down to my office and I will explain that also. By international standards, especially in comparison with other advanced countries, Australia has a low rate of participation in tertiary education and it suffers because of that. Australia is not entering the technological age. We are in the technological age, like most developed countries we entered it totally unprepared. If we are to compete on the world markets we must have greater participation in the tertiary sector of education. Moves towards more equal participation by disadvantaged groups are especially welcomed. It has long surprised me the talent we waste in this country. I speak from some personal experience. Coming from a working class background there was no way I could afford to send myself or my parents could afford to send me to university in the 1950s.

Mr Cowan —It would not have helped you anyway.

Mr HOLLIS —Well, I eventually got there, so whether it helped me is beside the point. Then universities were the preserve of the wealthy. For too long women, the children of ordinary working people, members of some ethnic minority groups, rural youth-except the children of the squattocracy; we have a few examples of those in this House-and most notably Aborigines have been considerably under- represented in or unequally distributed across courses in institutions within the tertiary education sector. They have been deprived of much that their society offers and our society has been deprived of the contribution they could make. This Government is determined to change this state of affairs.

In recent years all sectors of education have been plagued by uncertainty in Commonwealth funding. As a member of the Council of the University of Wollongong I know how difficult this is for universities. This uncertainty is exemplified by the approach to cost supplementations whereby institutions were given a prospective allowance for cost increases and were left in doubt about whether any additional cost increases would be met. The Government is concerned that this uncertainty has had a debilitating effect, particularly on higher education which is virtually 100 per cent dependent upon Commonwealth funding. The Government's decision to restore restrospective cost supplementation will help to restore stability and rational planning to tertiary education. These guidelines specify immediate steps, to have effect from the beginning of 1984, to shape the Commission's planning for the triennium beginning 1985, which will contribute towards putting the Government's education policy on a carefully planned and long term basis. The Government is concerned with the reform and development of all aspects of tertiary education-its organisation, processes, outcomes and participation levels and equality of access. In this year, the last year of the tertiary education triennium, the Government will concentrate on the last two of these. The Government's immediate objective is to provide for at least an additional 3,000 student places in universities and colleges of advanced education in 1984. An additional $10m in recurrent grants, based on marginal cost levels, will be provided for this purpose in 1984. This will enable additional staff to be employed. The Government looks to all institutions for a positive response to the provision of a wider range of opportunities for young people and special efforts to attract those social groups which are at present under-represented amongst those benefiting from higher education.

This Government also believes that the development of arrangements between institutions based on the co-operative planning of educational programs can contribute to the goal of increasing participation in higher education. In this context, the Government already has announced that the enforced amalgamation of universities and neighbouring colleges of advanced education at Armidale and Newcastle will not proceed, but it looks to the State and the institutions to plan co-operatively for increased participation based upon the joint use of staff and other resources, including the technical and further education facilities in the regions. I mention the successful amalgamation of the former Wollongong Institute of Education and the University of Wollongong. There have been some initial problems, such as lack of library space, but the administration of both bodies worked together, as did both councils and the staff, to produce what I believe is a successful amalgamation and a model that other institutions could perhaps look at. This has been another first for my area, the Illawarra.

I turn now to what I regard as the most neglected sector of education, that is, adult education. All education must be seen as a lifelong process and I believe that adult education can play a significant role in preparing people for this new technological age. In speaking of adult education I am not specifically referring to literacy classes, important as these are-I welcome the Government's initiative in this area-technical courses or mature age entry to universities. I am talking about non-vocational adult education. Some years ago I studied the provision of adult education in Japan. I have also studied adult education in the Scandinavian countries. Presently we do not compare very favourably with these countries but I know that under this Labor Government, with its strong commitment to education and its policy that education is a lifelong process and is available to all, adult education-that section that my friend Mike Newman refers to as the poor cousin-will take its rightful place in the mosaic of the Australian education scene.