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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2953

Mr BLANCHARD —Is the Minister for Aviation aware that the requirement of the professional engineering course at the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Institute of Technology is that students must obtain a minimum of 16 weeks and 12 weeks respectively of practical experience? Is he further aware that many students from both institutions are unable to obtain employment during the summer vacation, with the consequence that their graduations are in jeopardy? Is the Minister further aware that the Department of Aviation in Western Australia has decided not to employ students during the forthcoming long vacation, whereas it has done so in the past? Will the Minister take action to reverse that decision-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Will the honourable member please bring his question to a conclusion. It is rather a series of questions.

Mr BLANCHARD —Mr Speaker, I am coming to a conclusion now.

Mr SPEAKER —I suggest that the honourable member do so very quickly; otherwise he will be sitting down.

Mr BLANCHARD —Will the Minister take action to reverse that decision so as to allow the opportunity for some additional students to meet the requirements of the course and ensure their graduation?

Mr BEAZLEY —I very recently became aware of the matters to which the honourable gentleman referred in relation to the qualifications required for engineering graduates of the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Institute of Technology. I am very sympathetic to the problems that those graduates experience and I will look at the situation in my Department in relation to the decisions that may have been taken not to employ graduates over the long vacation period. My response to any information that I obtain from the Department in that regard will be governed to some considerable degree by the obligations of my Department in relation to the aviation industry.

As honourable gentlemen would be aware, my Department is unusual among Commonwealth Departments in that its expenses are substantially cost recovered from the aviation industry and are not wholly, as in many other departments, a burden on the taxpayers. That obliges us to be highly responsible in our employment policies to ensure that we are not requiring of the industry the carriage of a burden that ought not legitimately to be placed upon it. We are not intending this year to have any increase in personnel in the Department. It is the hope of the Secretary to the Department, with my support, that over successive years we will be able to reduce the size of the Department, certainly in the policy areas if not in the operational areas because we are aware, as the whole aviation industry is aware, that there has been a very substantial downturn in the industry over the last few years. The capacity of the industry to meet all the costs that are imposed upon it, including the costs imposed by my Department, is very much less than it was a few years ago. When I eventually respond, as I shall respond, to the questions that were raised by the honourable gentleman in relation to the employment on a temporary basis of engineering students that, I am afraid, will be the overriding consideration in the determination that I will eventually make.