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Wednesday, 3 April 1957

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . -I move -

That the bill be now read a secondtime.

The bill is in a form which is now, 1 think, familiar to all honorable members. They will recall that since 1950 the Commonwealth has made grants to the States for university purposes under legislation similar to that now before the House. The present bill seeks to make provision for continued Commonwealth assistance in this field, not for one year, but for the years 1957 and 1958. Prior to 1950. the Commonwealth made grants to universities for research and paid substantial subsidies to meet the cost of training ex-servicemen under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. In 1950 a committee of inquiry into various aspects of university training and finance recommended certain principles for Commonwealth assistance to universities, and those principles have been the basis of the annual grants and annual legislation ever since.

This bill introduces no new principle. It follows the same form and model followed by the 1951 act and the other acts up to and including that of 1956. But, as I have said, it does provide for grants for two years. The reason for this is that, as honorable members know, we recently announced the appointment of a committee of inquiry to investigate the future structure, organization, and functions of the universities in Australia. It is a very strong committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Murray, who is chairman of the University Grants Committee in the United Kingdom. Whatever investigations the committee undertakes will be conducted with great skill and knowledge, and whatever recommendations it makes will deserve the serious consideration of the Government and of the Parliament. The investigations made by the committee, which will be conducted over a period of about three months will undoubtedly touch upon many aspects of university problems. In the meantime, it seems to the Government that, over the next two years the universities should be able to count upon definite provision by the Commonwealth at least, in additionto their other revenues. That is why we have adopted a measure to cover a period of two years.

I may say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that although the mechanism obviously is the same - the basic grant principle and the secondary grant principle are the same - an important change will be made in the amounts of the grants. The total grant paid under the 1951 measure, whichI introduced in this House, was £1,103.000. Under the 1956 act, the total grant for the financial year nearly ended will be a little more than £2,000,000. Under this bill, the calculation of the amounts, so far as one can judge them at this stage, would have led to the conclusion that they would be £2,250,000 in the first year and £2.285,000 in the second year. We have provided for an appropriation of £2,300,000 in each year; so that the total over the next two years will be £4,600,000. Without wishing to encourage any undue hopes, [ say that that will in fact be a minimum. The universities will be guaranteed that amount. If other rules have to be applied and other amounts worked out as a result of investigations and recommendations that seem to the Government and the Parliament to be good that can be done. But under this bill the universities including the residential colleges, which will receive about £50,000 a year under this measure, will know at any rate what they can safely expect to receive from the Commonwealth over the next two years.

Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.

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