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Thursday, 21 May 1970


Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo) - I want to deal with two matters concerning education that are vital to Victorian people and in particular to country students in that State. The first one I wish to consider is the way in which we are dealing with external studies for country students. At present there is a State election campaign in progress in Victoria and two proposals are being offered as remedies for the chronic inadequacies in the staffing in country schools. The first proposal is the one put forward first in time on behalf of the Australian Labor Party by the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, Mr Clyde Holding. That is the proposal to establish Victoria's fourth university, which has long been overdue, in a regional centre. This proposal was for a regional university outside the capital city. There is every reason why this should be established. Other States have universities outside of the capital cities. I think that New South Wales has 3 universities outside its capital city and that Queensland has one outside of the capital city. There is every reason why such institutions should be established outside of the capital city in Victoria. That is what the Labor Party proposes to do.

Most importantly Labor's proposal in Victoria is that it will concentrate upon coordinating adult education, and predominant amongst its tasks will be the provision of external studies. We have seen a gradual dissolution, a gradual winding-up of external courses in Victorian universities. There is almost nothing left at Melbourne's university. I believe there are about 100 students at that university. This is Labor's proposal. It is going to expand those facilities so that we can provide our large scale external courses, particularly for country teachers, to give them the qualifications that at present they cannot get without going to the metropolitan area.

I have stressed Labor's policy in that respect. The Liberal Party in Victoria has come forward with a cheap immitation of Labor's policy. It has seen just how attractive in country areas Labor's policy is on a regional university. All that the Liberals have offered to do is this: Provide $100,000 for taking on additional external courses. While the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) is at the table, I would like to ask him whether such a request for assistance from the Commonwealth has been put to him by the Minister for Education in Victoria. The Liberal Party policy starts off with $100,000 - a princely sum no doubt to deal with a problem which has reached disaster proportions in Victoria. What exactly will $100,000 do? I want to emphasise this very strongly: 1 believe this sum of money will not even scratch the surface of the problem. I point out that in New South Wales there are approximately 5,000 external students. In Queensland there are approximately 2,000 external students. However in Victoria there are approximately 100 remnants of the old days when external courses were given on a large scale basis. Just look at those figures and see all that is being provided for Victoria. At present the State has courses for about 100 students whereas another State with a population comparable with that of Victoria provides courses for 5,000 students.

What exactly will the Liberal Party's proposal do in Victoria? Under the Australian Universities Commission's thinking an external student should cost, the equivalent of one-half of a full time student. In other words, $600 is the cost of maintaining an external student. Let us divide $600 into what the Liberals in Victoria are offering. I believe that 600 goes into 100,000 about 166 times. In other words, what the Liberal Party of Victoria is offering to solve this massive problem of the shortage of external courses is 166 courses. Incredible! At the present moment Victoria provides only 100 external courses, while New South Wales' provides 5,000. All the Liberal Party in Victoria can find in its imagination to provide is extra courses for 166 students. That is just incredible.

I want to point out that of all the States in the Commonwealth Victoria is the only State without even a minimal external course. Let us compare New South Wales and Victoria on a population basis. If we have 5,000 external students in New South Wales as well as the vast numbers they have inside the universities, Victoria should be providing courses foi- 4,000 students. So we can see just how significant is the reply of the Liberal Party in Victoria to the problem of providing external courses. I believe that any Victorian government that is worth its salt should come forward and say that it will deal with this problem. We are very concerned about the grave injustices and the inequality of opportunity that affect country students in particular. We must realise that one of the reasons why country students suffer from this inequality of opportunity is that teachers come to country areas quite often because they are forced to under the bonding system. Many of them, unfortunately for country areas, would not come there quite voluntarily, and many of them later leave the country areas for the metropolitan area purely and simply because they cannot get further qualifications in the regions in which they are living. They have to come down to the metropolis. So we can see just how insignificant is the reply of the Victorian Liberal Party to that problem.

The Labor Party policy is to provide a fourth university in a regional area. The task of this university 'will be to provide externa) courses on a large scale. We should be able to deal with this problem in Victoria in the same way as it is being dealt with in New South Wales. We should be able to provide, say, 3,000 to 5,000 externa] courses for university students. Incidentally, what is the reason why these additional courses are being provided in Victoria? The only reason why they are being provided is that, after years of allowing external courses to fold up in Victoria, the Liberal Party has suddenly realised how attractive Labor's proposal is. In order to con a few votes in the countryside the Liberal Party is now offering an extra 166 external courses. That will bring the grand total of external courses in Victoria up to 266 compared with 5,000 in New South Wales.

There is one last point I want to deal with: I asked a question of the Minister for Education and Science last week concerning the very distinct likelihood that fees in colleges of advanced education and universities in Victoria would rise next year.' I would point out at this stage - I am making this statement on the basis of what has happened in other States - that in the other 5 States of Australia the fees at universities and colleges of advanced education have been rising. I am prepared to guarantee at this moment that this is exactly what will happen in Victoria if Sir Henry Bolte gets back into power. What has happened in other States this year? New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have raised fees at their universities by 20%. Western Australia has raised university fees by 7%. Tasmania has raised them bv 12%. Sticking out like a sore toe is the State of Victoria. Victoria, for some strange reason, has not raised fees. Is this because Sir Henry Bolte believes in free education or cheap education? Does he want to remove the inequalities in education? Not likely. He has an election to face this year. This is why moves to increase fees are being stalled.

The reply the Minister for Education and Science gave me last week was very interesting. I asked him why Victoria had not raised fees. Naturally, being a representative of the Liberal Government in Canberra, the Minister for Education and Science was not going to say that Sir Henry Bolte has not raised them for the very simple, shrewd opportunist reason that he has an election to face. The answer was an evasive one but what the Minister for Education and Science did say in reply was interesting. He said virtually that every State government, under the existing financial arrangements between the State and Commonwealth governments, has a vested interest in raising university fees and college of advanced education fees. These are the words he used in answer to my question last Friday:

To this extent it might be said that the States have some interest in the level of fees because it follows that the higher the revenue from fees the smaller is the direct contribution from the States.

In other words, any State which does not raise its fees is a fool. It has less money to pay towards the cost of the universities and colleges of advanced education and it can get that recouped by the Commonwealth, anyway. Now, what has happened in the field of colleges of advanced education? Increases in this year should be noted. In the New South Wales Institute of Technology there has been an overall increase of up to 50%; in the Tasmanian Advanced College of Education, an increase of 10%; in the South Australian Institute of Technology, a 20% increase; and in the Western Australian Institute of Technology, an increase of up to 50%. Why has not Victoria raised its fees? Is it because Sir Henry Bolte believes in cheap education? Does he want to cut down the costs of education? Not likely. It is an election year. If Sir Henry gets back, up will go those fees. He will try to bring those fees into line with the fees as they are in other States after being raised. Those are the 2 points I want to bring out tonight, but most importantly I want to stress just how useless, how inadequate and how hopeless is what the Liberal Party in Victoria is offering in the way of external courses - an increase of 166 external courses.

Mr N.H. BOWEN (Parramatta - Minister for Education and Science) - by leave - I want to make 2 brief points as the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) was dealing with matters of education. The first is that before the honourable member makes this type of speech appropriate to a soapbox in a State election campaign he should get his facts correct. The facts are, of course, that the Commonwealth has offered massive aid to the 3 Melbourne universities for external courses and I myself have had some discussions on this subject with them. There has been some response from Monash University. I can assure the honourable member that it is not a lack of money in this area, but a lack of will on the part of the universities to undertake external courses. The universities do not want to do it, and I do not know whether the honourable member realises that universities are autonomous bodies or whether he has the view that if Labor was in power that they would cease to be autonomous. But I think he should understand the position and if he is worried about external studies let him have a talk with the universities and see why they are not taking up the money to use for those courses.

The second thingI would say without going into the matter of the policy speech is to call the attention of honourable members to the reports which have been appearing in the Press of the policy on education stated by the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party, of the ultimate reduction and phasing out of aid to independent schools. This is not only paying scant regard to a very substantial section of Australians--


Mr Cope - I rise to order. I thought that the Minister asked for leave to make a statement in answer to the speech made by the honourable member for Bendigo. He is going right away from that. He is introducing new matters altogether. He is breaking an arrangement.


Mr SPEAKER -The Minister was given leave and the Minister will continue.


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Bendigo wanted to discuss the policy stated in the State election campaign and the ultimate reduction and phasing out of aid to independent schools is part of that policy as far as the State Australian Labor Party Executive is concerned. This not only pays scant regard to a very substantial section of the Australian public who, after all, are trying to exercise their right to send . children to independent schools and who pay their taxes, but more than that it will obviously place a very great financial burden on the State school system. Either improvements will not be made which ought to be made because the moneys have to go in order to cope with the problem that is created for the Government schools by this or some other question of need will have to be foregone.


Mr Kennedy - I rise to order. This is disgraceful. We gave leave to the Minister to answer the questions that we raised on this subject. 6 want the answers to the questions that I raised, not the questions he is suddenly introducing out of the blue.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Leave has been given to the Minister to make a statement and he is in order as long as his remarks are relevant to the question.


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I have nothing further to say.







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