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Wednesday, 10 April 1957


Mr HULME (Petrie) .- In the first place I want to give something of trie background of Commonnwealth assistance to the universities over the last few years. Prior to 1951, the Commonwealth assisted the universities in two particular ways. One way was in relation to grants for research purposes and research workers. A second means of assistance was substantial payments to the universities through the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. At that time, 1951, it was found that the amounts paid under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme were diminishing, because the enrolments were diminishing. I think that honorable members will appreciate that this scheme was related to the opportunity afforded by the Government to ex-service men and women for training in such institutions as universities, teachers' colleges, and theological colleges.

As an indication of the manner in which amounts available were decreasing because of the tapering off of enrolments, 1 mention that in 1950 the amount paid by the Commonwealth was £450,000 and that in 1951 it had fallen to £300,000. At the peak of this scheme, in 1948, no fewer than 20,000 students were being trained. In April, 1955, approximately 15,000 had completed their courses, including 9,000 who had taken their first degree at a university.

Because of the reduction in the number of trainees and the consequent decrease in funds available to the universities, in 1951 the Commonwealth made two new proposals. The first concerned the Commonwealth ' scholarship scheme. In 1956, approximately 10,000 students were enrolled in courses in universities and similar institutions under this scheme. The second type of assistance was the type set out in this bill. This type of assistance was intended to replace the amounts which had been paid under the grants proviso and under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. It was felt that this was necessary because at that particular time the universities of Australia were experiencing considerable deficits. The universities appealed to the Commonwealth Government, which appointed a committee in 1950. As a result of the deliberations of that committee and advice it gave to the Government, these amounts were made available, year by year. In 1951 the amount was £1,100,000. I here contradict the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns; who suggested that in this bill we are providing for two years' finance and that that had not been done previously. In 1951 the legislation provided for taree years' finance, lt provided a retrospective payment to 1950 and also payments for 1951 and 1952. The amount available in 1953 was £1,500,000, to cover that year and also 1954. The amount in 1955 was £1,700.000, and in 1956 it was £2,000.000.

As has been pointed out, this bill provides for each of the years 1957 and 1958 a sum of £2,300,000. Those amounts include grants to university colleges for purposes of teaching and for the purpose of meeting some of their administrative expenses. The 1 95 1 legislation provided for £25,000 per annum and in the present legislation the amount has been increased to £50,000 per annum.

I would point out that it was not intended, when the first of these measures was enacted in 1951, that the States should be relieved of their responsibilities in relation to education. Under the Australian Constitution, education is the responsibility of the States, and measures of this kind were introduced by the Commonwealth merely to assist the State universities. The principle underlying each of these measures, though not stated in each act in these exact words is -

.   . that the basic grant would be paid only on the condition that the university received from its State a grant sufficiently large, when joined with income from fees, to balance the university's budget and to be three times as large as the basic grant.

Unfortunately, I have once more to disagree with the honorable member for Yarra, though my disagreement is perhaps technical and not the result of any great difference between us. The honorable member said that the amount of the Commonwealth's contribution will be approximately equal to the total of State grants and the income from fees. In point of fact, the Commonwealth's contribution will bc only' one-quarter of the total income of the universities. I appreciate that no part of this grant will be available for capital works, and that expenditure on capital works and the provision qf equipment must be met from State grants and fees. Allowing for that, one can say that the Commonwealth grant will be equal to approximately one-half of the administrative costs of the universities. The legislation provides, further, that once the conditions of the basic grant have been met, every £3 of the excess of the total of State grants and fees over the qualifying amount shall attract a further £1 from the Commonwealth, up to a ceiling amount.

One of the problems of the universities that we have to face is expanding population with a consequent increase of enrolments. This Parliament must face up to the problem of the capital costs of the universities. I think it is well accepted to-day that university lectures are given largely in buildings that have been added to very little for many years. For these reasons, I commend the Government on the appointment of the special committee, which was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) some little time ago. under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Murray, who is chairman of the University Grants Committee in Great Britain. Another member of the committee will be Sir Charles Morris, who has occupied the post of ViceChancellor of the University of Leeds since 1948. The general terms of reference, which. I think, were mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra, have been made public. The committee is to inquire into such matters as -

(1)   the role of the University in the Australian community;

(2)   the extension and co-ordination of University facilities;

(3)   technological education at University level; and

(4)   the financial needs of Universities and appropriate means of providing for these needs.

I should like to point out to the House that, when the Prime Minister wrote to the chairman of the committee he gave a broader charter than is indicated by these four terms of reference. I propose to read an extract from the Prime Minister's letter which I believe, will give honorable members a better understanding of the scope of the investigation that will be made by the committee. The Prime Minister wrote -

We would hope that the Committee would take a wide charter to investigate how best the Universities may serve Australia at a time of great social and economic development within the nation.

He set out the four terms of reference that I have just mentioned, and continued -

This list is not meant to he exhaustive and it does not setout to limit the inquiry to be undertaken by the Committee. . . Some of the specific topics which exist may include: Numbers which should be kept in mind in determining whether a new University ought to be established, machinery for ensuring that the creation of new Faculties and Chairs is done in such a way that existing resources are used adequately and needless duplication does not occur, and an analysis of the adequacy of the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme whereby some 3,000 new scholarships are available annually for students at tertiary institutions. These, of course, represent only a few of the large number of topics which could be listed, but I would prefer the Committee itself to retain a considerable measure of freedom in deciding which problems might be studied in detail to give the most useful typeof advice.

I believe that it would not be possible to give a wider charter than the Prime Minister has given to the committee.

I wish now to refer to another comment made by the honorable member for Yarra, who suggested that the Government should give to the committee an undertaking as to the amount of money that would be guaranteed by the Commonwealth to meet the cost of its recommendations. I consider that it would be rather presumptuous for the Government to give to the committee the broadest possible charter for its investigation, and to say, in effect, " You are restricted in some way in relation to the amount of money available to meet the cost of your recommendations ". I am sure that every honorable member, on reflection will reject the suggestion made by the honorable member for Yarra.

I have mentioned the problems of expanding population and increasing enrolments. Some of the universities are already refusing enrolments in certain faculties and the numbers attending many lectures at some of the universities are too great for proper instruction. These excessive numbers prevent many students from continuing their courses by inhibiting their ability to pass the necessary examinations. If they fail in any year. Commonwealth scholarship assistance is no longer available to them, and it is impossible for them to meet the cost of fees. I disagree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) that a university course is not very costly.


Mr Pollard - Put some punch into it!


Mr HULME - If the honorable member would do so when he addressed the House it would help. The fees for courses iri the major faculties at the University of Queensland are more than £3 a week. Allowing for living costs, including board and lodging, and expenditure on clothing, it is necessary for parents to meet an expense of approximately £6 to £8 a week to keep a student at the university in one of these faculties. If there are two, three, or four children in a family wanting to go lo the university, the costs are too great. 1 believe that, for this reason, many students are abandoning their courses at the end of the first, second, or third year, or at some other rime before completing them.

We in Australia should show concern particularly for those who are qualifying for entry into the technical faculties. I believe that this century will be known, in view of what has happened in the first half of it. for scientific discovery and technical development. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who is now at the table, in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, indicated only yesterday what one man had achieved in the field of research. His achievement can be multiplied thousands of times, and what one man may achieve in the field of research may. from the stand-point of a productive process, require the employment of hundreds of thousands in the years that follow. Unless Australia trains the requisite numbers of engineers, technicians and scientists, it will be impossible for us to make full use of the new methods evolved by research. Therefore, we must consider the problem very carefully, because, as the honorable member for Yarra pointed out. in this field, Australia and, for that matter. Great Britain, are falling behind other countries. It is not easy to obtain comparable statistics in this field, but in Great Britain there are 57 graduates per 1,000,000 of population. In the United States the figure is 136 per 1,000.000 of population, and in Russia 280 per 1.000.000 of population. The United States and Great Britain are doing something about it. The United States expects that by 1964 the figure will increase by 100 per cent, and Great Britain undertook, during the Prime Ministership of Sir Anthony Eden, the expenditure of £100.000.000 over a five-year period on technical education. The remarks of Sir

Anthony Eden in introducing the relevant legislation are very pertinent. He said -

Those with the best s\ stems of education will win. Science and technical skill give a dozen men the power to do as much as thousands did SO years ago. Our scientists are doing brilliant work. But if we are to make full use of what we are learning we shall need many more scientists, engineers and technicians. I am determined that this shortage shall be made good.

We in Australia should be concerned to provide in the years which lie immediately ahead, facilities for the training of more scientists, engineers and technicians.

I feel that some things can be done without the assistance of the Government. The statistics of school attendance are, to say the least, disturbing. At the age of twelve or thirteen years, school attendance is almost 100 per cent. That is, of course, because school attendance is compulsory for children under fourteen years of age. At the age of fourteen, the attendance drops to between 80 per cent, and 85 per cent. At the age of fifteen it drops to 41 per cent.; at sixteen to 19 per cent.; at seventeen to 7 per cent.; and at eighteen to only 3 per cent. Certainly, a number of children qualify for their leaving certificate at the age of seventeen, but the figures that I have given are a clear indication that an insufficient number of children are receiving higher education in our secondary schools and so are unable to receive university training. Parents have a responsibility in this regard. I know that there are high wages for youngsters of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years of age. The lure of high wages causes many children to leave school before they would otherwise do so. Parents can do a great deal to help by accepting their responsibility to encourage children to stay longer at school and seek university education.

Industry can do much to assist. Some of the older universities such as those in Melbourne and Sydney, though not so fortunate as universities overseas, are at least in a better position than is. say. the Queensland University, which benefits from very little endowment. Industry can do much more to endow our universities and make it possible for them to carry out their proper functions. Industry could provide the necessary encouragement and reward for those with ability and capacity. Surely, from among the-v own employees. industries can pick out the young person who is capable of going on to higher education. They could make time available and even pay university fees. So, parents, industry, and the community as a whole each have a responsibility in this regard. That thought was mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) towards the close of his remarks. I might add that this responsibility should be to give children, wherever they come from, and whatever their financial circumstances, the opportunity to- develop their talents to the maximum.

In the few minutes which remain to me I want to refer to another matter which relates to this bill. We, as a Commonwealth, as I and other honorable members have indicated, have given financial assistance to the universities over the last few years, and especially since 1951. Recent events in Queensland suggest that the day may not be far distant when the Commonwealth Government will have to attach conditions to its grants to the States, even for university purposes. There can be no doubt that the appeal board which has been set up in Queensland in the last two or three weeks represents an interference with academic freedom. If the States allow themselves to be subjected to political pressures nothing but damage can result for the university. Many people who are qualified for a lectureship or professorship will not, because of this appeal board, submit their names. As some honorable members are aware, one member of the appeals board represents the university and one the appellant. Under the circumstances, these may he expected to cast offsetting votes. The third member, who is the chairman, is appointed by the Government, and is a senior public servant.


Mr Coutts - The honorable member's view is both biased and political.


Mr HULME - I suggest to the honorable member that if the appeal board, under the chairmanship of a senior public servant, does not give satisfaction to an appellant who has the ear of the Government or has some influence with the Government, next time the board sits there will be a different chairman and the chairman will continue to be changed until he gives satisfaction to the Government. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) may suggest that what f am saying is unreasonable. But the

Queensland legislation was brought down because some one who had applied for a position at the university had the ear of some one in the Government. If applications for employment are not received from people of outstanding merit in other State universities, or overseas, the standard of teaching at the Queensland University will suffer. This will, in turn, be reflected in the teaching profession. I realize the problem of finding teachers. Secondary school teachers should be encouraged to gain university degrees, and their training should be at the highest possible level. I think there is not at the university the best talent available to teach those who are seeking degrees, and who are to become the teachers of our children. That must surely have an ultimate effect upon the community as a whole. If honorable members wish to make a comparison, they will see that Victoria, which has no such appeals system will be a better State, from the point of view of education, than will Queensland, where this appeals system operates. We find in Queensland that this legislation is directed not only against the staff of the university, but also against the Senate of the university. The majority of members of the Senate are appointed directly by the Government. The minority of members are people who are actually elected.

When the legislation was being discussed in the Queensland Parliament, there were, of course, many speeches in opposition to it. However, one of the bright individuals on the Government side said, " You may have all the arguments in the world against this legislation; we have the numbers ". That apparently is the attitude of the Queensland Government on this matter. A protest meeting was held on Monday night last at the Brisbane City Hall. It was attended by 2.600 people and 400 telegrams were received from people who were in sympathy with the protest against this type of legislation.

I return to the point where T started: If that is the type of action which is to be taken by a State government after receiving generous financial assistance from the Commonwealth, then the Commonwealth surely must do what it is entitled to do under the Constitution - place certain conditions on the grant before the universities actually receive it.







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