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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2633

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(3.23) —Previous speakers have indicated that the report of the Committee of Review of Private Overseas Student Policy which came to hand a very short time ago is so comprehensive in size and so detailed in its recommendations that it is impossible in the space of this debate to deal with it fairly. Therefore, we all hope that we will be given a significant opportunity, firstly, to read it properly and, secondly, to debate it in this place in the very near future. Incidentally, the report could compound very strongly on Budget decisions of the Government, and therefore it ought to be debated well ahead of those decisions. If there are no other speakers, I propose to seek leave at the end of my comments today to continue my remarks later.

I support what both Senator Baume and Senator Macklin said. I have a long enough memory to remember the genesis of the Colombo Plan. I had some little hand, behind the curtain, in helping the development of that plan. The concept of the Colombo Plan was for Australia to reach out, as a good neighbour, to offer facilities to developing countries. The main facilities were provided in both secondary and tertiary education. We have gone a long way. We have made a great deal of progress. We have much more to do. There are countries that have become recognised for their ability to export education, as it were. For instance, in the Middle East, Jordan has such a reputation. Countries should develop a size, an expertise and capacity in education, not only to educate their own people, but also to provide virtually a service to other countries as a good neighbour. This is what I think Australia ought to do.

Over the past 10 years or more in the education debate-I will seek to be apolitical-the argument has always been that we need more money. Of course we do . The appetite for money in education is enormous. Nevertheless, the fact is that at this moment two things are contending. There is a need in Australia for greater participation in education at all levels by indigenous Australians. The participation rate through to the higher school certificate in Australia is low when compared with the rate in countries around us. At the moment it is something in the order of 36 per cent-low when compared with countries that have a 60 per cent or 70 per cent participation rate.

Our participation further into post-secondary and tertiary education is also low when compared with other countries. Retention at school is low. We need, particularly because of our massive unemployment and the world around us becoming more and more skilled, to develop more and more skills amongst our people. Therefore, there is a great hunger inside the Australian community for more facilities in education at all levels and for more participation. During the education debates I hope to develop that point.

We ought not have this contending, as in a ping-pong match, between overseas students and our own students. That would be sad. I commend the thought in Senator Macklin's contribution that funding for education of overseas students should be divorced from the general education budget. That was part of the Colombo Plan concept of the past-that there was a service and a reaching out which had a comprehensive series of facilities provided to it. I believe that there is nothing that we can do with greater impact upon the world outside than invite the people from other countries in our region to come and share in what we do very well indeed, by and large-education. We should not have the argument: 'If you have more of these, you cannot have more of them'. I hope, with the time against me at this moment, that that will not be major in the debate. In the hope and expectation that we will debate this matter before the Senate rises for the winter recess, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.