Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 266

Senator TEAGUE —My question, which is also directed to the Minister for Education, concerns the higher education administration charge-the reintroduction of tertiary fees by the Hawke Government. Why does the Minister evade an answer by projecting her explanation to a future monitoring report, when the patterns of applications for enrolment are now fully available? Has an article in the Canberra Times this week been drawn to her attention? The article states:

The registrar, Dr Rosalind Dubs, said there had been a `significant drop' in the number of part-time students this year and that she `suspected' that this was a result of the fee.

`We suspected that this would happen and I think that all universities expected that (part time students) would be the ones that would be pushed out first . . .

Why does the Government still demand the same $250 fee for part time enrolments as for full time enrolments? More particularly, and finally, why does the Government prohibit higher education institutions from determining for themselves whether the Hawke Government administration charge should not be reduced or eliminated for part time and external students, accepting, of course, the financial consequences?

Senator RYAN —I must say it is absolutely extraordinary that somebody who professes a great interest in higher education could ask such a garbled series of questions, displaying such an ignorance of the Commonwealth's role in funding higher education institutions. But for the benefit of honourable senators, I point out that it is not the practice of our Government to make policy decisions based on the suspicions of one person. Senator Teague quoted from an article in the Canberra Times, which, I point out, is not our main source of information when arriving at policies, anyway. The article outlines the suspicions of one person in one institution and the fact that her suspicions might be shared by people in other institutions. Fortunately for higher education in Australia, there is absolutely no chance of the organisation which currently calls itself a coalition coming to government. I can only say that it is greatly in the interests of higher education that that should never happen, if we would install a group of people who make policy in such an important area based on the suspicions of one person.

As I pointed out in my answer to Senator Watson, it is our intention to look at the results of a properly conducted, properly structured research project, which will look in a proper way at the participation of different groups, not only at the Australian National University, but at the other 18 universities and 46 colleges of advanced education throughout Australia. When we have that information available to us-it will be available as soon as it can properly be made available-we will look closely at it. In answer to Senator Teague's other question, as to why an administration charge is being levied at the same rate on part time students as on those full time students who are required to pay-of course, many of them are not required to pay-the answer is that the charge is related to the administration of enrolments; it is not related to tuition. The business of enrolling a part time student for a subject costs a great deal more than $250. Senator Teague is merely displaying a disappointing ignorance of the administrative costs and practices of higher education institutions. It would be preferable for Senator Teague to inform himself properly about matters before he tries to ask these questions.

In conclusion, I do not think I have a lot to add to the answer I gave to Senator Watson. There is a properly conducted research project in place. When we have the results of that available to us-results which we will happily share with those interested and properly informed members of the Opposition whom we may find-we will make decisions. But in the meantime we are not making decisions based on anyone's suspicions, nor are we making decisions on false claims about the economic circumstances of part time and external students.

Senator TEAGUE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister in her answer used the words `in the meantime'. In the meantime, are part time and external students to suffer?

Senator RYAN —I suppose that people attribute their own meanings to words. But I would not attribute a proper meaning of `suffering' to a situation in which a well paid public servant or somebody in a teaching service in Australia-somebody who may already have a tertiary degree or diploma-is required to pay $250 for the benefits of a place which, if it is a full time place, could cost in the vicinity of $8,000 or $12,000, or, if it is a part time place, could cost in the vicinity of $4,000 for a single subject. I think that to ask somebody who is already in receipt of a great deal of education and who is in receipt of a proper salary to make the modest contribution of $250 to this process cannot, in my understanding of the English language, be said to be suffering.