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Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Page: 253

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (12:42 PM) —I thank senators who have spoken on the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Re-registration of Providers and Other Measures) Bill 2009, and I seek to respond to some of the matters that have been raised. The questions that have just been put to us by the last speaker, Senator Eggleston, in quite a conciliatory way highlighted the substance of the issues that we are seeking to deal with. The issue here is an industry that has grown dramatically since the late 1980s to the point where it is now our third largest export industry. Economically, it contributes dramatically to this country. But, more importantly, in personal terms it contributes very significantly to Australia’s international reputation and, in the long term, I believe that this industry provides the basis for relationships that should extend for generations to come. Therefore, it is critical that appropriate regulatory arrangements be in place to ensure that the quality of our international reputation is second to none and that allow this country to be proud of its educational attainments. In fact, the future of this industry rests on its quality and its reputation for delivering very good experiences to students when they are in this country.

So I was somewhat surprised when I heard some of the comments made by some other opposition senators. In a chamber that is renowned for its hypocrisy, we have risen to new heights on this question. We have heard that the problems in this industry have only just arisen. I have been in this chamber for a fair while and I can say that I have taken a keen interest in this industry throughout the period during which I have been here. I can remember Amanda Vanstone’s ships of fools, I can recall the Russian training programs, I can recall the joint international colleges and distillery companies that were run out of post office boxes, I can recall the infamous Greenwich University and I recall the actions of the previous government in refusing to deal with these issues.

Debate interrupted.