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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2273

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.17) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian National University Act 1946 in order to remove provisions inserted in the Act in 1979 and 1981 which restrict the activities of student organisations in the University. In addition to this primary purpose, the Bill provides for a number of minor amendments to the Act most of which have been requested by the University.

The amendments made to the Australian National University Act in 1979 and 1981 by the Fraser Government were directed at restricting the ways in which fees levied on students for the provision of amenities and services could be used. An objective was to prevent these fees being used for so called 'socio-political' purposes, including affiliation by a student association with a national association of students.

These restrictions involve an unwarranted intrusion into the internal affairs of the University. Students should be free to make decisions about how they run their organisations subject to their accountability to the governing body of the University. A wide range of student activities should be a normal feature of campus life. It is for the Council of the Australian National University to decide, not the Government, what are appropriate uses for funds levied to provide amenities and services. To impose restrictions of this nature represents an unacceptable limitation on the proper autonomy of the Council as the governing body of the University.

It is the Government's intention to repeal the restrictions brought into the Act in 1979 and 1981 so that the Act in the area of funding amenities and services for students will return to the situation existing prior to the 1979 amendments. The Council of the University has been consulted and has indicated that it welcomes the action the Government is taking. It will again be the responsibility of the Council to supervise the use of these funds as an aspect of its general responsibility for the governance of the University.

The Bill also provides for a number of minor amendments to the ANU Act. The Bill removes from the Act the provision for an annual appropriation of $650,000 for the University. This provision goes back to the establishment of the University in 1946 but has been overtaken by time. As the annual appropriation for the University for running expenses is now of the order of $121m, it is sensible to remove this anachronism from the Act and to add this amount to the funds appropriated each year for the University.

A number of amendments requested by the University are included in the Bill. These include the removal of sex-discriminatory language from the Act, the addition of student representation to the Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies, the establishment of the position of Treasurer as an office of the University, and the up-dating of penalties for traffic offences on University land. The Bill gives the University power to make Statutes authorising the disposal of vehicles abandoned on University land after reasonable efforts have been made to trace their owners.

The opportunity is also being taken to make some formal amendments to the ANU Act and to bring this Act into line with current legislative practice in several matters. These are the provision for disclosure of interests by members of the University Council and for disqualification of a member of Council. The Bill has no implications for Commonwealth funding of the ANU. Fees for amenities and services are levied from students by the University Council at rates approved by the Council and do not involve Commonwealth expenditure.

This Bill gives effect to a principle of considerable importance in defining the respective roles of government and university governing bodies in the management of institutions. It embraces a broad concept of the nature and value of a university education. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.