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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20140

Ms MACKLIN (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware of results of research that show nine out of 10 people in Western Sydney oppose the government's university changes and that over half say the issue of university funding would influence their vote? Is the minister also aware of a letter written by the member for Lindsay to board members of the University of Western Sydney, which savagely attacks senior management for criticising proposed funding cuts by the Howard government? Does the minister endorse the member for Lindsay's letter, described by the Daily Telegraph as `an astonishing attack' on the University of Western Sydney'?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for her question. I should not be surprised that the question is not about expressing concern for the 300 per cent increase in TAFE fees by the New South Wales government at the Blacktown TAFE. Instead we have yet another question about universities. What this government is doing is recognising that, especially for this century and for Australia as a country with a relatively small population, it is important now that we reform Australian universities to prepare this country for the international benchmarks against which it is going to be judged.

Apart from putting an extra $1½ billion of public money into Australian universities in the first four years and $10.6 billion in the first 10 years, the government is moving to fund those universities—with the support of almost all of Australia's universities—on the basis of what they actually do, the services and the courses that are provided by those universities. The University of Western Sydney, over a period of 13 years during which it was funded under the same formula, has reduced the provision of high-cost courses like agricultural science by some 23 per cent. At the same time, the University of Western Sydney has put almost all of its 1,550 new places into low-cost courses. As an example, agricultural science costs seven times more to provide than business administration, and those are the kinds of courses into which the University of Western Sydney has moved. Is it fair that the University of Western Sydney receives six per cent more than the University of Ballarat for providing the same course? The University of Western Sydney receives $8,005 for providing business administration, yet the University of Ballarat receives $7,591. I ask the member for Kingston: is it fair that Flinders University receives $7,569?

What is happening is that this government is increasing the funding for all universities. Over the three years of the transition, the University of Western Sydney will receive $5.4 million from this government to ensure that it receives not one single dollar less; and from 2007 it will receive considerably more money. It is critically important that the Australian Labor Party recognises that, unless Australian universities are reformed now, universities are on a collision course with mediocrity and the next generation will pay a significant price for the obstruction of the Australian Labor Party.

Ms Macklin —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a copy of a letter from the member for Lindsay to the University of Western Sydney board.

Leave granted.