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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1134

Mr HAND —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and it concerns the issue of the Government's $250 tertiary charge. I draw the Minister's attention to a report in today's Daily Telegraph which states:

The Government is considering increasing the charge to $500 per year.

I therefore ask the Minister to ease the concerns of present students and those planning to enter tertiary institutions in the future. Will the Minister state that the Government does not intend to double the current tertiary charge?

Mr DAWKINS —Of course, the honourable member would not expect me to answer precisely what items are before the Expenditure Review Committee in the current expenditure review process. However, I can assure him and the House that here, as in all other areas, the Government will take into account the burden of fiscal constraint which is already being carried by various groups within the community. Of course, I am aware that there has been some criticism of the $250 administrative charge. There has also been some attempt to boycott the payment of those charges in some institutions. I want to point out that this is a very modest contribution towards the average $8,000 cost of providing places for tertiary students in Australia.

Those students who have places must recognise that they are amongst the most privileged people in Australia because they have the opportunity of an almost free education which gives them a better chance of getting into the work force and remaining there. It is a very small contribution in terms of the total cost and, indeed, is less than 25 per cent of the administrative costs of handling those enrolments within institutions. Those who are seeking to boycott the charge should recognise that not only are they putting at risk their places within those institutions but also they are depriving their own institutions of the necessary resources to carry out their functions. I should also point out that 130,000 students are totally relieved of the requirement to pay the fee as a result of the arrangements that we have made, particularly in relation to people in receipt of Austudy grants. Therefore, it is also important to recognise that this has not just been a budgetary exercise. As a result of imposing this very modest charge, we have arranged for an immediate addition of 1,000 tertiary education places. This number will rise over 3 years to 3,000 additional places, bringing to 48,000 the number of additional places created by this Government.

It is worth contrasting our policy with that which we understand to be the policy of at least part of the Opposition. It will freeze places at the existing level and charge the full cost for any additional places. That means that for those people who want to undertake a course in medicine the cost will be some $112,000 at current prices. The cost will be $66,000 for an engineering course or $31,000 for law. Of course, those charges will be imposed regardless of the economic circumstances of those students or their families. As well, we will see a mishmash of private universities cropping up all over the country. We have come by a document revealing the Joh party's education policy which, of course, is full fees for everybody. This will allow that party to set up a university of its own. Some of the schools in that university are anticipated to be the Joh Bjelke-Petersen school of speech therapy, the Flo Bjelke-Petersen school of creation science, the John Bjelke-Petersen school of family studies and the Russ Hinze school of nutritional science.

The education policies that we are pursuing are the education policies appropriate for Australia's circumstances and the ones which will equip Australia with the best chances of confronting current economic circumstances. We will not be pursuing some ideological frolic which seems to have possessed the Opposition, which is not only bereft of any logic in terms of providing for Australia but is also a patently and blatantly unfair policy.