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Wednesday, 3 April 1957

Mr DRURY (Ryan) .- I wish to join with my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) in expressing alarm and concern at the nature of the clause that he referred to in a bill that was passed by the Queensland Parliament a few days ago. The clause is known as the appeals board clause of the Universities Act Management Bill. I share my colleague's alarm at the threat in this clause to the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. As he pointed out, there are some 1,250 students affected by this legislation under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. This is a matter that far transcends State boundaries, and one which must give us cause for concern on a national basis. I believe that we as a government, and, I trust, as a parliament, hope that the Commonwealth scholarship scheme will flourish and expand. We do not want to see it wither away and die, but that is what I say is likely to happen if this bill receives the Royal assent and becomes law.

The present arrangement is working perfectly satisfactorily from the point of view of those most concerned with the Conmonwealth scholarship scheme. We are completely satisfied with the present system under which appointments to the university staff are made by a body of 27 university senators, after very careful investigation of each of the applicants. As my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton, has pointed out, the appeals board which it is proposed will deal with questions of appointments, punishments and dismissals, will consist of three persons, one representing the university senate, one representing the appellant and the third being a government nominee. As the honorable member rightly pointed out, the votes of the first two representatives will almost certainly cancel one another, leaving the final decision in the hands of the government nominee. There may or may not be a danger in this. 1 believe that there is. I believe that the new arrangement contains possible political implications, and that it will possibly result in Government interference in university matters, necessarily affecting adversely those students under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme about whom we are concerned. I see in this clause a threat not only to the maintenance of the standards of the university and of our students and the work that they are going to do when they pass through the university, but also to the standards of the professions that these students will embrace. I see also a threat even to freedom of expression by these students while they are at the university. I see also a threat to freedom of expression by members of the staff of the university - and this must necessarily affect the students too. If the junior members of the university staff are afraid to express their views because of possible political implications, then undoubtedly they are not going to be the type of lecturers or professors which the complete removal from government control would help them to be.

I believe, sir, that we in this National Parliament must concern ourselves with maintaining the highest possible standards in our universities, because we are directly concerned under this Commonwealth scholarship scheme. 1 believe that it is right that we should have something to say about this matter in the National Parliament. It has been pointed out by one of the professors concerned, and I think that the point was mentioned by my colleague, that the proposed board of appeal has no counterpart in any other part of the freethinking world. In no other free-thinking university is there such an appeal board, and I feel, as the honorable member for Moreton does, that this constitutes a grave threat not only to the standards of our university, but, as I say, to the development of this great democratic institution, and through that, it may possibly harmfully affect the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and the students who are being trained under it.

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