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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3050

Senator BLACK —Is the Minister for Education aware of comments made by the headmaster of Toowoomba Grammar School to the effect that the Federal Government treated the school with conscious spite and deliberate malice in its application of the fringe benefits tax and that Queensland school children were the unfortunate victims of an obvious and deliberate injustice when they sought tertiary education. Is the Minister able to provide the Senate with details of the effect of the FBT on tertiary institutions and the number of places provided for tertiary students in Queensland under this Government?

Senator RYAN —I did see some reports of those extraordinary comments. I only hope that the person who was reported as making them-the headmaster of the Toowoomba Grammar School-in fact did not make them because I think it is really very unbecoming for a person in a position of education leadership to resort to that sort of stupid and obviously inaccurate abuse. The application of the fringe benefits tax to higher education, which he seemed to be talking about, is very minimal.

Senator Chaney —Sounds like Question Time, doesn't it. Secondary education; boarding schools.

Senator RYAN —As Senator Chaney intervenes, there will be some application of fringe benefits tax in those cases where teachers in boarding schools have been receiving free or subsidised board in lieu of part of their wages but honourable senators will be aware that the extent to which that tax will be applied has been modified by the recent streamlining of the fringe benefits tax and ought not to be a harsh or unconscionable imposition on the employers in boarding schools. It is also the case that boarding schools receive under Commonwealth funding a higher level of per capita payments in recognition of the fact that they have to provide boarding facilities for teachers.

The other part of the claimed statement, the suggestion which we seem to hear almost daily in Queensland, wrong though it is, that Queensland students are somehow disadvantaged compared with students in other States and Territories with regard to higher education places, of course is clearly wrong. I remind the Senate that Queensland's share of extra intakes in 1987 will be 650. Queensland will get 22 per cent of total extra intakes for next year, which takes its share of the extra intakes funded by us over the last four years to some 24 per cent of the total, which is clearly a decision giving preferential treatment to Queensland. Between 1983 and 1987 the number of higher education places is expected to grow nationally by 36,800 to 300,000-a growth rate of 14 per cent. During that period Queensland's share of higher education places is expected to grow by 22 per cent. So quite clearly, as I have pointed out on many occasions in the Senate and to the Queensland media, Queensland is receiving positive discrimination under our higher education places policy. What happened prior to our assuming government is of course a different story. The backlog we inherited from the Fraser Government and from the period when the State Government had under-funded higher education in Queensland still exists, but our record cannot be challenged. As I have just stated, the overall national growth over the period for higher education places is 14 per cent and we are giving Queensland 22 per cent of those places. That is positive discrimination and is clearly to the benefit of students from Toowoomba Grammar and any other high school in Queensland.