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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5175

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (1:21 PM) —As I stated last night, I believe that this bill is going to be defeated on a tied vote. The issue therefore becomes one of whether it is returned or not. In consideration of the situation down the track, the amendments put forward by Senator Nash, Senator Williams and me may be more worthy of consideration. Our issue was never the reintroduction of compulsory student unionism—not in the slightest. Our issue was about giving universities, as businesses, the capacity to cover those things that make up the greatest proportion of their costs.

We heard Senator Fielding’s comments about our position being half pregnant. I thought this was interesting. What more can we say about that? We thank Senator Fielding for coming dressed last night in theme for the function. He looked as though he had just arrived from a tragic version of Tosca!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marshall)—Senator Joyce, there is a question before the chair.

Senator JOYCE —Certainly. I have come to the conclusion that it was actually Steve Fielding’s secret agent who was here last night! If we do not find some mechanism to achieve support for sporting facilities, especially for regional universities, those facilities will fall into disrepair. That will be the catalyst for the public to question whether a university is an institution they want to send their son or daughter to. If that is the case, then that university will be put at threat. I think that is terribly unfair and it will begin to bring a sense of discrimination back to regional areas in one of the most fundamental things we want to keep at parity—that is, educational opportunities. I do not think we are asking for a major change but we did seek to remove the major cost. Other people have questions about other costs. They are all conjecture and calibrations of the issue. It is undeniable that the major cost for universities is their sporting infrastructure. I do not think anybody suspects, even in the slightest way, that sport is a political activity. I think that universities, as businesses, should be allowed to cover the costs of their businesses, of which sporting infrastructure is a part. We will look to having this discussion again, I imagine, in about three months.