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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 7110

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (12:13): My contribution to the debate on the Higher Education Support Amendment (Demand Driven Funding System and Other Measures) Bill 2011 will be brief. The previous speaker, the member for Kingston, said she hoped the opposition would support this legislation. I would like to join with her in expressing that same hope, because it is so rare that we come into this parliament and find that the opposition supports good, sound, solid legislation that provides opportunity to all young Aus­tralians.

Mr Simpkins: We're still waiting for some.

Ms HALL: As the member for Cowan said, 'We're still waiting.' We are still waiting for the opposition to get in there and actually provide support to our legislation. They are an opposition that say no, no, no to everything. They oppose everything and have no constructive approach to being members of this parliament. It really disapp­oints me. For a parliament to work truly well you need to have an opposition that are considered in their opposition and are supportive when they need to support legislation. The bill that we have before us today is the type of legislation that I would expect all members of the opposition to support.

The bill will implement the government's commitment to demand driven funding for undergraduate student places, except places in medicine, at public universities by removing the current control on under­graduate places within the universities. That is great news for all Australian students and all those young people who want to go to university. From 2012, it will abolish the student learning entitlement. It will also require, as a condition for Commonwealth funding, that table A and table B higher education providers have a policy that upholds free intellectual inquiry in learn­ing—and that is something that worries me because those on the other side are not supportive of it—teaching and research and that they enter into a mission based compact with the Commonwealth, which is also very important.

The Australian government is fully committed to transforming Australia's higher education system through implementing a demand driven system for funding undergraduate places at higher education providers. Those providers are listed in table A of HESA. The majority of these providers are public universities. What does the demand driven system mean for those young people who are seeking to enter university? It means that there will be places available for them to attend university. It means that we will have a skilled workforce. It means that young people will have a future and an opportunity to attend university and study in their chosen area.

This bill will give effect to the imple­mentation of a demand driven funding system for undergraduate student places at public universities from 2012. By doing that, it will achieve just what I was saying a moment ago. It will remove the current cap on funding for undergraduate Common­wealth supported places and the current seven-year limit on students' eligibility to receive Commonwealth support for their higher education. Recently, I had a young man visit me in my electorate office. He had studied science and was later accepted into medicine, which meant he was going to be studying over a period longer than seven years. Because of that he was unable to receive Commonwealth support for that education. Anyone who knows anything about medicine would know that by doing science and then doing medicine he was putting himself in a position to be a better doctor. Whilst the uncapping of places does not relate to medical students, the ability to extend one's studies over seven years does.

In the demand driven funding system, universities will have greater flexibility to respond to students and markets. I have already spoken about the students and about market demands. It means that the courses provided by the universities and the places in those courses will meet the needs of the market and of students. This is good legislation that all members in the parliament should support. I am encouraged by the government's approach to this and I implore the opposition to get behind and support this legislation. It is good legislation that will deliver to Australian students and to Australian businesses.