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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1600

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Can the Minister confirm a report in today's Australian, in the higher education section, that research has shown that the Government's $250 administration charge has already had a marked effect on the distribution of tertiary students as between full time, part time and external students? Is it a fact, as reported, that there has been only a moderate 4.7 per cent rise in full time university enrolments, but, alarmingly, a fall of 8.6 per cent in part timers, and 10.9 per cent in external student numbers? Will the Minister confirm the claim by a member of the Higher Education Administration Fee Monitoring Committee, Ms Tracey Ellery, that one survey in Western Australia and another covering students in four other States have shown the adverse impact of the fee? Finally, has the Minister had access to this research, and, if so, why has she refused to answer questions that have been put to her in the Senate concerning the impact of the charge, particularly on part time students?

Senator RYAN —As I have told the Senate on a number of occasions, I am awaiting a report from the Monitoring Committee, which is monitoring the research project carried out through the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, to see what the nationwide effect of the charge has been on particular groups. That report is not complete and I do not have it available to me. It sounds, from that newspaper report, as if one member of the Committee has decided to have discussions with the media. Whether she is in possession of all the information available to the Committee, I do not know. I would suggest that it was somewhat premature for a member of the Committee to be having discussions about the impact of the charge when the Committee itself has not yet completed the report and passed it on to the Government. When it does, we will look at it very carefully. The information will be available to the Senate and we will make our decisions accordingly.

Senator TEAGUE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister does not deny the facts that are set forth? Do they not unequivocally show that this is a failure in its effect on part time and external students as we predicted it would be?

Senator RYAN —I am not in a position to confirm or deny the alleged facts in the article in the Australian. As to whether the charge has been a failure or not, I simply remind honourable senators, students and prospective students that under a Liberal coalition government, if ever such a fate were to befall Australia, most of them would be paying thousands of dollars every year.