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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1360

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister for Education. I ask whether the Minister has noticed a report in yesterday's Courier-Mail quoting the Queensland Deputy Premier, Mr Gunn, as asserting that:

Thousands of Queensland school leavers were missing out on a tertiary education because of unfair Federal Government funding.

What is the accuracy of this statement and of other claims made by Mr Gunn at the same time?

Senator RYAN —The statement is quite inaccurate. I am growing rather tired of having to point out the inaccuracies of the statements that are made repeatedly by various Ministers in Queensland, which demonstrate, perhaps, the bad effects of a lack of tertiary education provision in the past. They seem unable to deal with the facts of the matter, which have been put on the record not only by me in this place a number of times, and in public statements and Press statements in Queensland and in statements by my Federal colleagues, but indeed by the reports of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission itself. The fact of the matter is that Queensland, under our funding and participation policies, is actually receiving favoured treatment in terms of the number of tertiary places available in that State.

The reason why there is a lower participation rate in tertiary education in Queensland than in any other State in Australia is historical and one for which successive State Governments in Queensland are mainly responsible. The backlog in participation ratios in Queensland developed in those years prior to 1974, when higher education funding was the responsibility of State governments. During those years, years in which the Liberal Party and the National Party in coalition governed Queensland, there was a very low expenditure on higher education. As a result, the participation rates in tertiary education were very low.

It is also a fact, as it has been for many years, that expenditure on secondary education is also low in Queensland by comparison with other States, and, therefore, the number of students completing secondary education and thereby qualifying themselves to go on to tertiary education is still lower than it ought to be and lower than it is in other States. Another contributing factor to the lower participation rates in tertiary education is that technical and further education represents the largest sector of tertiary education, and the recurrent funding for TAFE is still mainly a State responsibility, although, of course, the Commonwealth contributes to the recurrent funding of TAFE and makes a generous contribution, up to 70 per cent, of capital funding for TAFE. Nonetheless, it is not possible for greatly increased participation of numbers in TAFE unless State governments are willing to fulfil their responsibilities and make adequate numbers of teachers available.

All those historic reasons, which are results of Queensland State Government decisions, contribute to the present situation in which there is a lower participation in tertiary education in Queensland than that in other States. Since the Hawke Government has been in office we have made very effective efforts to overcome that problem. For example, of the 3,000 extra higher education places made available in our first Budget, 700 went to Queensland, so Queensland got the lion's share of those extra places for 1984. In last year's Budget, again, funding is made available for an extra 15,000 tertiary places over the triennium, and again a much higher than simply per capita proportion of those places will go to the State of Queensland. The percentage set out by the Tertiary Education Commission of enrolment growth for Queensland for the triennium is 9 per cent as against the national average growth of 6 per cent.

I do not want to go into tedious lengths about this matter. In fact, it should not have been necessary for me yet again to correct a statement emanating from the Government in Queensland. I hope that all who are interested in tertiary education in Queensland will address themselves to the facts. I hope that, in particular, Ministers in the Queensland Government will stop making these misleading and erroneous statements, which can attract only justified criticism to their own performance and compliments to the performance of the Hawke Government in this area.