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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3045

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister for Education. In the light of concerns that have been raised about the higher education administration charge being the thin end of the wedge for the introduction of tuition fees, can the Minister inform the Senate of the Government's position on tertiary tuition fees?

Senator RYAN —There is no basis for concern with regard to the thin end of the wedge campaign in respect of the Government's intentions and the administration charge for some higher education students. Both I and the Prime Minister have made it categorically clear that the $250 charge will be indexed, according to the higher education cost index, in subsequent Budgets but will not be increased in any other way. However, there is cause for concern, I think, in the failure of the Liberal Party to come clean on its intentions with regard to tuition fees.

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator RYAN —There are some shrieks of opposition opposite. I have here a confidential document issued by Mr Shack, the present shadow spokesperson--

Senator Townley —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I note on the back of the blue paper headed `Notice of Questions' it states:

Discussion, in anticipation, upon an Order of the Day or other matter, by means of a question, is not permitted.

I would have thought that, as this matter is on the Notice Paper, this answer should not be given at this time.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order. It has been a general rule of the Senate that Question Time will not be stymied in any way by that matter, and I think the question is in order. I call Senator Ryan.

Senator RYAN —It is not surprising that Senator Townley would try to interrupt when I was just about to tell the Senate about the contents of a confidential document from Peter Shack in which it is made crystal clear that it is the intention of the Opposition, if ever it manages to regain the treasury bench, to go ahead and charge full cost fees. Indeed, in the document Mr Shack says:

We will allow universities, CAEs and so on-

I suppose the `so on' means technical and further education colleges-

to raise money to supplement government funds in whatever ways they think fit. They might do this by increasing their funds from the business sector, or they could do it by enrolling extra students on a fee-paying basis.

It is interesting that this matter appears in a document which is one of the most cynical and patronising exercises I have ever seen. It is a document that has been prepared in panic in response to the fact that the Liberals are getting about 19 per cent of the youth vote at the moment, and it contains a series of instructions to Liberal members of parliament on how to deceive and manipulate young people with regard to the intentions of this Government. Liberal MPs are advised to make patronising references to movie stars or to rock singers, such as Bruce Springsteen, or to simulate an interest in sport, in order to inveigle young people into confusion about the intentions of Liberal MPs in respect of working for the dole, their intentions with regard to full cost fees and their intentions with regard to dismantling peace disarmament programs. It is a truly disgraceful and very cynical document. I will table it for the interest of honourable senators. In conclusion, I remind Senator Colston and honourable senators that our intentions with regard to the $250 administration charge are clear, as, of course, are the intentions of the Liberals with regard to full cost tuition fees. I table the document.