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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23426

Mr GIBBONS (2:40 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware that 500 places at La Trobe University's campus in Bendigo are overenrolled places and at risk because of the Howard government's unfair university changes? Isn't it true that the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University, Graham McDowell, is concerned that Bendigo will be forced to enrol fewer students? Will the minister guarantee that no place will be lost from La Trobe University?

The SPEAKER —I point out to the member for Bendigo that the inclusion of the name did not in fact authenticate the question.

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Bendigo for his question. These are issues which I have discussed directly with him. The first thing that I would say to the member for Bendigo is that he should go back and explain to the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University why he has voted against La Trobe University getting an extra $15 million minimum funding in the first three years. The next thing that I would point out to the member for Bendigo is that, if the member for Bendigo is concerned for opportunities at La Trobe University—which will expand under the proposals that are being put by this government to modernise, reform, strengthen and protect Australian universities—then he will support the Leader of the Opposition, who will now be presumably asking Labor senators to pass the government's higher education reforms through the Senate.

What the member for Bendigo is doing is seeking to remind the La Trobe University and the people of Bendigo that he has voted against that university receiving additional funding and that the Labor Party is standing in the way of making sure that Australia is internationally competitive and that we have high-quality education the length and breadth of Australia. It is critically important to put, as the new Leader of the Opposition said, Australia's interests first—and I implore him to do that. Higher education is a national interest issue. Many of the policies which have been adopted by this government are policies which you, Leader of the Opposition, in your heart support and have written about. I urge you to persuade your colleagues to those views.