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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2070

Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister for Education aware of a report in yesterday's Press that the Government's decision to reduce the technical and further education capital program by $12m is a departure from the Government's commitment to expansion of this sector of education? Does that statement accurately represent the Government's action?

Senator RYAN —I am aware of that report and, like many of the reports that arose out of the May economic statement, it is an inaccurate representation of the facts. The facts are these: The Government will be providing $128.9m for the TAFE capital program for 1985 and 1986, a reduction of $12m on the Forward Estimates of outlays, so it is still a very large capital program. Of course the Government took this decision, as it had to take other difficult decisions, in the context of its detailed review of the Forward Estimates against the national economic objectives that have been set to ensure continuing economic recovery.

The Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission has been asked to advise on the details of projects to be funded within a program of $128.9m for the financial year 1985-86. Final decisions on overall funding levels for calendar years 1986 and 1987 will be taken in the context of the Government's consideration of the 1986 and 1987 supplementary reports of the Tertiary Education Commission.

The TAFE capital program is a large and complex one. It has been operating for two years-1984 and 1985-at the record high levels set since this Government came to office. The additional resources injected by the Government have enabled a substantial increase in the funds available each year for the commencement of new projects. Some $47 1/2m is available in 1985 for design work on, and the commencement of, major new capital works. Within the reduced level of funding for 1985-86, the Government has decided that building projects which are commencing in 1985 or which were commenced in earlier years should have priority in order to discharge commitments. After allowing for these commitments, design funds will be provided for new projects in 1986 and 1987 to assist in the orderly development of major capital new works. In conclusion, it is quite clear that this is still a major priority of the Government and one to which record high levels of resources have been allocated.