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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10357

Ms WORTH (11:07 AM) —I thank members who have taken part in the debate on the Higher Education Funding Amendment Bill 1999 . As usual, the debate has been wide ranging—somehow even Badgery's Creek managed to sneak into this debate, but I think I will leave that without taking the matter further. This year alone through this bill the Commonwealth govern ment will provide almost $5.6 billion to Australia's universities to support their teaching, learning and research work. The bill also makes provision for further funding of $5.7 billion in 2000 and $5.8 billion in 2001. This is a huge investment in the future of our young people and of our country.

The bill also delivers on the higher education commitments made by the government during the last election and announced in the 1999-2000 budget. The bill provides additional funding to the James Cook University for 60 medical places, which I am sure would be of particular interest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Nehl. This initiative honours an election commitment made in The best of health: a balanced plan for a stronger Australia and supports access to higher education for students from rural and isolated areas. It will have the end result of us having more rural doctors. This is about long-term planning to achieve just that.

The first intake of students is expected to start at the beginning of the 2001 academic year. In each year's intake five places will be earmarked for indigenous students and 15 for students from rural and remote areas. Our medical school in Townsville will also have improved health services in the local community as students will undertake their clinical training there.

The bill also provides $25 million over the period 2000 to 2002 for science lectureships. The initiative strengthens the important link between university and industry and fulfils a 1998 election promise. Development of graduates with the knowledge and skills to work in the emerging industries and technologies, particularly information technology and biotechnology, is vital for Australia's economic growth. The government anticipates that funding to develop innovative approaches to course design and delivery will enable universities to attract more school leavers into science courses and will help industry meet their education and training needs. The provision of additional funding for research infrastructure honours the government's commitment made at the last election to lift funding for research expenditure.

The government will provide an additional $93.3 million over the next three years to support research infrastructure in universities. Australia's higher education research infrastructure base underpins the success of our research performance. The government is investing in building and maintaining stronger links with the national innovation system. The bill supports the continued growth of Australia's education and training export through the provision of $4 million for 2001 for the international marketing and promotion of Australian education and training services by Australian Education International.

The government will be moving amendments to this bill. The amendments provide additional funds that will ensure that the holders of Australian postgraduate awards and Australian postgraduate awards (industry) are not disadvantaged by the impact of tax reform on prices. The increases to these awards are part of the government's commitment to ensuring that people on income support and related payments are more than compensated for the effect of the GST on prices. I commend this bill to the House.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for the bill and proposed amendments announced.