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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5167


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (12:41 PM) —I move Greens amendment (4) that was circulated in the chamber yesterday:

(4)    Schedule 1, item 5, page 5 (after line 28), at the end of section 19-38, add:

Report on consultations

         (9)    Each higher education provider must, as soon as practicable after 31 December each year, prepare and publish a report detailing the consultation which occurred during that year between the provider, its students and its student organisations in relation to the level of the fee, collection of the fee and expenditure of amounts paid.

       (10)    Each higher education provider must provide to the department a copy of each report prepared under subsection (9).

       (11)    The department must publish on its website a copy of each report received under subsection (10) in a form which allows ready comparison between the reports of different higher education providers.

This amendment seeks, as the previous one did, to ensure that we have accountability in how the money is being spent and that the $250 that will be collected from each student, if this legislation were to pass, is accounted for and spent in consultation with student organisations, student representatives and students. This will ensure that there is some element of transparency and accountability by requiring universities to show how they have involved students in deciding how the universities will spend their money.

We know that already the government’s legislation does not give the money that students are handing over directly to their student organisations. We know that the universities will have the discretion to spend the money on the services that they see fit but we believe that there needs to be a built-in mechanism which allows universities to discuss and decide collectively with their student populous how this money is spent. This amendment goes to the issue of compliance—and ensuring that universities comply and show that they comply. We need to make sure we have transparency and accountability.

I spoke last night about how I was surprised that the coalition did not support my previous amendment, which called for building a solid accountability measure within this legislation. This is the next step: to ensure that universities are required to speak with their students about how they are going to spend their students’ money. $250 is a lot of money if you are a university student. It is a lot of money if you are not. We need to ensure that students have an element of say in how this money is going to be spent and this amendment ensures that universities have to report on how they have included students in decisions about how their money is spent.

It is not good enough just to leave it to good will and assume that it will happen. We need to ensure we have accountability and transparency just as there is in the approach that the government is taking on a variety of other different educational transformations and policy directions of late—whether we are talking about schools or other elements of the Higher Education Support Act. This amendment is building in an accountability and transparency mechanism to ensure that universities show how they have involved students and consulted with students before they go and spend their money and throughout the process.