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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr JONES (Newcastle) . - I feel that I can agree to a large extent with the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) as to the necessity for a happy medium between higher education and the educational needs of those who are unable to attain degree standard. We know that with new methods of production in industry we need more people with knowledge and skill to maintain research and similar activities. Therefore, I consider the honorable member's contribution to the debate is of considerable value.

Reverting to the bill before the House, it is evident that supporters of the Government are very pleased with this measure and confident about its aims. But when we compare the expenditure of money on education in Australia - including university, primary, secondary and technical education - with the expenditure in other countries we find that Australia, as one of the principal Western powers, is sadly lacking. I expect that supporters of the Government will say that primary, secondary and technical education are the responsibility of the States. But the Commonwealth must accept its share of responsibility, because it is the taxing authority, and alone decides how much money will be made available to the State governments. The States are limited, therefore, in the money that they can distribute to their departments. That applies not only to State Labour governments, but also to State Liberal governments. Therefore, honorable members cannot be parochial and say, " I am pure, but you are at fault ", because all political parties in the States are in the same position in this regard. However, we find a "rowing group of people in the community demanding a greater allocation for education from the Commonwealth.

This Government has moved into the field of university education, and the time is overdue when it should also participate in primary, secondary and technical education. If necessary, it could accept the responsibility for all teacher training or for technical education. Under section 96 of the Constitution the Government has decided that it can allocate money for specific purposes, and that is laid down clearly in the report of the Australian Universities Commission. This legislation in itself is a step in the right direction because it is creating a precedent which proves that this Parliament, irrespective of what political party is in control, has the right to move into the field of education and accept its full responsibility.

Mr Killen - What about kindergartens? Would you have us assist them also?

Mr JONES - If the honorable member wants to get into a kindergarten, nobody is stopping him. He is already there, judging from some of the speeches we hear from him from time to time. We cannot be proud of what we have done for university education on a federal level. I have been perusing a booklet on university education which contains statistics for the various countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The figures are for 1957, and I acknowledge that they are three years old, but the comparison is valid. They show that whereas we had 23,000 full-time university students in 1957, Canada had 78,000. New Zealand, with a population of 1,750,000, which is far less than ours, had 5,600 students, and South Africa, with a white population of 3,000,000, had 21,000 university students. There would not be many coloured people among them, in the light of the policies of the South African Government. These figures show that we have nothing to be proud of in this connexion. India and Pakistan have a remarkable record. Between 1938 and 1957 their university population grew from 130,000 to 710,000. These figures are interesting and illuminating.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Why not give us some of the up-to-date figures? They are quite different.

Mr JONES - That might be so, but the statistics I have are the only figures available for other countries, and they tell the story. If the honorable member can do better he should give us the figures, but I have given the comparative figures for 1957, and that is only three years ago. The comparison is there, whether the figures are up to date or not. Our progress has not been so astronomical in the past three years that we can be proud of it.

Mr Whitlam - The latest figures quoted by the Australian Universities Commission in its report are those for 1957-58.

Mr JONES - That is true. Even the commission itself has not the latest figures for all countries. 1 propose now to deal with this question of education, as it affects my own district. I am deeply concerned at the failure of the Universities Commission to make money available for the development of the Newcastle University College. As honorable members will know, Newcastle district has a population of about 300,000. It is claimed that within a reasonable distance of Newcastle there is a population of 350,000 people from, which a university could draw. That is about equal to the population of Tasmania, and if Tasmania is entitled to a fully autonomous university, and grants from the Universities Commission, Newcastle University College is also entitled to an adequate share of financial assistance from- the commission. I know that honorable members will say that the New South Wales Government has not done anything about it, and I shall deal with that matter later and give certain reasons for its attitude. I do not agree with its attitude either. As I have said, the Newcastle district has a population equivalent to that of Tasmania, and it should be given an allocation for its university college from the Universities Commission.

My inquiries show that the standard of the Newcastle University College is equal to, or better than, the standard set in the New England University and the University of New South Wales. When students from New England University, the Newcastle University College and the University of New South Wales sat for the same subjects, the Newcastle students topped the list in sixteen out of twenty subjects. That indicates that the standards in the college are equal to those in either of those autonomous universities - the University of New England and the University of New South Wales. Therefore, the Universities Commission is not entitled to say that the Newcastle University College is second-rate and is not entitled to further funds. Its standards are quite satisfactory. Any one who checks the figures will find that in 1958 Newcastle students topped the poll in sixteen out of twenty subjects. That is something of which they are entitled to be reasonably proud.

I am concerned lest the college stagnate and people in the district will not have an opportunity to attend the college. In 1954, when the figures of prospective attendances were taken out, there were five local high schools from which to draw students. In 1963 there will be fifteen local high schools from which the college will draw students. There has been an increase in the number of people who will be interested in attending the college. We want the children to have an opportunity to attend a university college in their own district without having to travel to the University of New England at Armidale, or to the University of Sydney or the University of New South Wales. If they live in the Newcastle district, obviously they should be permitted to attend a university or a university college, as the case may be, in Newcastle. At the moment, Newcastle has not a fully autonomous university.

Additional support for the college should be forthcoming. The estimated enrolment figure for 1961 has already been passed. Enrolments at present number 1,080 undergraduates and 24 post graduates, a total of 1,104. It is estimated that next year there will be an additional 100 students, when the enrolment figure will equal the figure estimated for 1963, which is the end of the present triennium. By 1961 the college will have enrolled the number of students which was expected to be enrolled in 1963, yet it is not to get any further allocation for development. It will have to wait until the next triennium before it can get any more money. It is estimated that in 1963, at the end of the present triennium, total enrolments will be about 1,500 full-time students.

We in the north are very anxious that this university be developed. The Shortland site is the site that has been selected by the State Government. Unfortunately, there has been quite a deal of delay and backing and filling. On the Thursday when the report of the Australian Universities Commission was received here, I immediately telephoned Sir Leslie Martin in Melbourne and asked him five questions. I then wrote to him, confirming the questions I had put and asked him for replies in writing. He sent replies and I am quite satisfied with them. They clearly indicate to me that the commission is not prepared to make any additional money available foi the continued development of Newcastle University College on the Tighes Hill site, where it is being developed in conjunction with the Newcastle Technical College. There has been a considerable amount of dissatisfaction between the staff of the university college on the one hand, and the staff of the technical college, on the other. They are working too closely together, with the result that there is disharmony between the two groups. The chairman of the commission himself indicated that he knows that is the position and that he agrees that it is most undesirable. I asked him -

If the New South Wales State Government had given a dear undertaking that the Newcastle University College would be commenced this year on the Shortland site, would the Commission have recommended that money be allocated in this programme for its development?

The reply was -

The question is somewhat academic since the Commission has had no indication that the State Government is likely to be interested in developing the Shortland site in the near future.

That is not altogether correct. The State Government has indicated that it proposes to develop the Shortland site, although it has not said when it will do so. I also asked for the chairman's opinion of the Shortland site. He replied -

I am happy to report that the Commission is impressed by the Shortland site, and, subject to closer study of services available, considers that it is suitable for university purposes.

In my opinion, it is a most suitable site for the development of a university for the future use of Newcastle. When I say that, I do not mean the distant future; I mean the immediate future, when the site will be in the centre of the total population. It is not very far from the city at present. It is not more than five or six miles from the business centre and the post office. The population growth is all around it. The site comprises 256 acres and, as the chairman indicated, it is an excellent site. I also asked -

Does the Commission consider the facilities at present provided on the Tighes Hill site sufficient to meet the requirements of University education up to 1963?

The chairman replied -

The facilities are sufficient, but not ideal.

My last question was -

Does the Commission intend recommending any further money for the enlarging of the Newcastle University College on the Tighes Hill site?

The chairman stated -

In reply to your fifth question, I can say that the Commission hopes a decision will be made on the permanent location of the Newcastle University College during the 1961-63 triennium. If a decision is made, the Commission will be able to consider the needs of the University College for the 1964-66 triennium.

My point in regard to all those questions and answers is that this Parliament now has the responsibility of indicating where it believes universities should be established. The commission that has been established is no longer a yes-man commission. It is a commission which I believe should lay down policy. I think the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) said that university development in Queensland should be farther afield than Brisbane - in Townsville and other places north of the capital. I believe that it is the responsibility of the commission to say to Queensland: " We believe that the University of Queensland should be not further developed in Brisbane. That establishment should be retained as it is and all further money made available should be used to develop universities in other parts of Queensland." The same should apply in New South Wales. The commission should say to the New South Wales Government, " We will not make additional money available for the development of the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, because we believe that they are overcrowded and should be decentralized." Places where there should be university development include Newcastle and Wollongong. The University of New England should be developed further and another university should be established at Bathurst, Orange or Parkes, to cater for people in the mid-west of New South Wales.

It is the responsibility of the commission to plan nationally for the positioning of universities. It should not permit State governments to dictate where universities shall be situated or developed, because Commonwealth money as well as State money is being used for the purpose. We are providing money on a £1 for £1 basis with the States for the development of the universities. As we are putting up an equal amount of money, we should have an equal say in where those universities are to be. From the answers I received from the chairman of the commission, it is obvious that Newcastle University College will receive only £18,000 to complete projects recommended by the Murray report. It is obvious that if the New South Wales Government had said, " We will immediately get on with the development of the Shortland site ", the commission would have made money available for continued development. I am sorry that £400,000 was expended on the Tighes Hill site. 1 should have liked to see it expended on the Shortland site. But the point is that it was not. This commission could, as I have suggested, inform the State governments that it will not make any money available for the further development of existing universities. From the report we have before us it is obvious that the University of Sydney is overcrowded. It is obvious also that Sydney itself is overcrowded. The clear answer to this problem of overcrowding is to establish universities away from the cities. If we did this, we would relieve people in the country districts of the burden of having to travel to and live in the cities in order to attain a higher level of education.

On Saturday last the New South Wales Minister for Health, the Honorable W. F. Sheehan, as a result of representations made to him over a long period, made a welcome statement at the opening of the nurses' home at the Royal Newcastle Hospital. He said that many representations had been made to him by members of Parliament and by individuals and organizations in the Newcastle district, requesting that a medical school be established in Newcastle. He said he had been asked to report upon the matter, and that he was certain, now that his report had been forwarded, that the people of Newcastle would be happy with the contents of it. That seemed to me a clear indication that the third medical school in New South Wales would be established in Newcastle. I believe that the development of the medical school and of the university college could go forward in conjunction one with the other. The Royal Newcastle Hospital is the equal of any hospital in the Commonwealth, and I believe that the medical school and the university college should be developed on the Shortland site. I also believe that this Parliament - and I lay no blame at the door of any individual on the Government side - should be prepared to say to the State governments, through the commission, "We will make the money available, but you must put your money up ". If the commission had made available £300,000 or £400,000 for the development of the college on the Shortland site the State Government would have had no alternative but to put up a like amount. I feel that the commission failed the district of Newcastle in this connexion.

Having made those comments, I do not intend to oppose this bill. I hope that on future occasions the commission will seriously consider some of the remarks that have been made, and that it will give constructive directions with regard to future planning.

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