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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 595


Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I want to raise a matter on which I have spoken in the House before and of which I think this Parliament should take note. In Victoria over the past 6 to 8 months considerable publicity has been given to proposals to establish a fourth university. Prior to the 1970 State election both major political parties promised to establish a fourth university in a country area. Subsequently a committee was established in Victoria and it reported in 1972. However, no action arose out of that report and in fact the report of that committee was discarded. In October last year the Australian Universities Commission asked the Victorian Government to provide it with details of courses, student numbers and other information relevant to what was proposed for the country university, as it was then mooted. In February this year in a short Press statement the Victorian Government indicated that it would establish a university based on Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo which would be located on grounds jointly occupied by a section of the university in each town, by the already existing teachers college in each town, which would be shifted to those grounds, and the college of advanced education existing in each of those towns. It was said that commerce, arts and science would be the courses, and that external studies would be the major aspect of the universities.

The Australian Universities Commission continued to ask for detailed information so that this matter could be examined. The Commission, as we all know, was engaged in an examination with the Australian Commission on Advanced Education of proposals relating to the future needs for a university in or near Melbourne and in the Albury-Wodonga area. Obviously it would have been of benefit to the Commission had it had before it proposals which would have enabled it to consider the Victorian Government's projected multicampus university at the same time as it made recommendations on other aspects. The report which was finally brought down indicated that on the information available about student numbers and other factors, an area to the east of Melbourne should be considered for the university in or near Melbourne. The report also indicated that it could be that by about 1990 there would be a requirement for a university in the Geelong area. More significantly, the report said that the Commission had been unable to consider the Victorian Government's proposals because it was unable to obtain any information relating to those proposals. On the morning on which the report was tabled in this House the Premier of Victoria indicated by telegram to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that he was forwarding additional information relating to the Victorian Government's proposals.

At this time the Victorian Minister for Education, Mr Thompson, was demanding that the Commonwealth indicate that it was prepared to support the Victorian Government's proposals. He was asking that the Universities Commission, a body set up to evaluate proposals requiring the expenditure of money in the university field, should support a blank cheque approach without the provision of any details, indications of the number of students involved, the likely cost structure, the courses, staffing or anything else. He was demanding that a decision be made without any information. This is akin to a person going into a local council office and saying: 'I own a block of land and intend to build a motel on it. Would you please give me a permit?' I imagine in those circumstances the local government body would request further information. However, in what I would say was a fairly shrewd political move, by announcing the sites and thereby lifting the expectations of the areas concerned, the Victorian Minister for Education was able to cloud the fact that no submissions or preparatory work had been done by the Victorian Government. A smokescreen has been placed over the whole project with expectations in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo being increased among people not fully aware of the facts that there would be a university in those areas.

Recently the Minister has been patting himself on the back because at last he has been able to get the Commonwealth Government to consider his proposals. It would have been very surprising if the Government had considered them any earlier because he did not put them in until 30 July. Irrespective of what government was in Canberra, it would not have been able to consider the proposals before they were submitted. From 1970 until August this year; - that is a minimum period - the Victorian Government has been engaged in drawing up specific proposals for a fourth university. What worries me most is that the people who know most about the educational needs of the 3 cities are not fully involved, and have not been fully involved, in the planning for this fourth university. There is a means by which an adequate tertiary institution or university, if one likes to call it that, can be provided in each of the 3 cities but it cannot be provided on the basis of 3 campuses and 9 separate entities with three of them operating in each city under different controls. There would be different State bodies controlling each. There would be a teachers college, there is what I think is called the Victorian council of teachers colleges, there would be the Victorian Institute of Colleges and the Victorian University Council which would control the 3 university colleges. Each of these bodies would have to make decisions, for instance, on the location of buildings. If the university wanted to build a new toilet it would have to get the agreement of the Victorian Institute of Colleges, the council of teachers colleges and the council of the Victorian university because it would be sharing the grounds. I am told that a minor proposal would require 16 separate decisions to be made. That is how complicated and how impractical the suggestion is. What should be done - even at this late stage it may be possible - is that the teachers colleges, the colleges of advanced education and the additional area which was proposed for a university-







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