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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3871


Mr MILDREN —I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Given the undisputed urgency of the task of improving Australia's economic performance, particularly in the manufacturing and services sectors, will the Minister indicate to the House what initiatives the Department of Trade is taking in developing exports of educational and training services?


Mr DAWKINS —I record the continuing and long-standing interest of the honourable member for Ballarat in the question of tertiary education in this country. It is about a year ago that my colleague the Minister for Education and I announced new policies to encourage the export of educational services and the response from many of our tertiary institutions has been very encouraging indeed. The Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission has approved some 251 courses to be offered in some 23 institutions. The first thing I want to do is to commend those institutions for their response, but also to say that we are somewhat disappointed that some of the other institutions have not responded with like enthusiasm. Indeed, some universities, such as the universities of Sydney, Queensland, Newcastle, Griffith and La Trobe, have yet to offer any courses to overseas students.

The private sector has also responded, with 120 private sector organisations being registered to offer courses to overseas students. Whilst I was in Jakarta recently I was able to observe at first hand the marketing effort being undertaken by these institutions and Austrade, with 36 public and private sector institutions involved in an information forum which has been not only to Jakarta but also to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In those centres some 2,500 people have visited those fora for the purpose of understanding what courses are available in Australia. In Singapore next week at the Association of South East Nations education fair some 80 per cent of the space will be taken up by Australian institutions.

This is an important development. Australia is trying to diversify its export activities, and getting into the services area, particularly education services, is very important for us. It is entirely a result of the changes in policies which this Government undertook a year ago and more recently, when we allowed institutions to retain a proportion of the capital element of their fees to be used within those institutions. We have also streamlined the issuing of visas to overseas students in order to make it easier for them to obtain entry into this country.

The benefits from this development will first arise, of course, in a modest way in 1987, but in future years I think we will see this making a significant contribution to turning around our balance of payments. I want to take this opportunity, if I may, to table three documents which set out the institutions, the courses which they offer and those which have been participating in the international activities I have referred to.