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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4529

Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR (Minister for Employment Participation) (8:25 PM) —I firstly thank those members who spoke on the bill and I commend the member for Dobell for his very compelling contribution to this debate. The Higher Education Support Amendment (2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2008 amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to implement the government’s education revolution 2008-09 budget package for higher education. These measures carry through the government’s election commitments. The government’s immediate priorities for higher education implemented through this bill will address skill shortages in critical areas, restore equity and support access to higher education, and fund places and infrastructure in key areas.

This bill makes important amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to address urgent and immediate priorities. It will provide for increased funding under the act to provide incentives for students to study priority areas like mathematics, science and early childhood education at university. It will ensure that students gain access to higher education on merit, and not on the ability to pay, by phasing out full-fee-paying undergraduate places for domestic students in public universities from 2009 and providing for additional Commonwealth supported places in early childhood education and nursing. This bill will provide for the expansion of Commonwealth scholarships, including the doubling of the number of undergraduate scholarships from 44,000 to 88,000 by 2012 and the doubling of the total number of the Australian postgraduate award holders to nearly 10,000 by 2012. It will provide for capital infrastructure and additional Commonwealth supported places and clinical outreach funding for the establishment of the James Cook University Dental School and for capital infrastructure and additional Commonwealth supported places in medicine, nursing and education at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The measures in this bill in addition to our commitment to the $11 billion Education Investment Fund and the $500 million Better Universities Renewal Fund that are not covered by the act represent the start of the government’s education revolution in the higher education area. Again I thank the members who contributed to this debate. It is an important debate, as is of course the bill. I indicate to the House that, as a result of the extensive debate across the chamber, we have I think, particularly when it comes to members on this side, highlighted the important elements of the legislation that is being proposed. Of course we are disappointed that the opposition could not accept the evidence and the compelling arguments put by government as to why they should support the bill. They have moved an amendment, which we do not support. I am very happy to commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Casey has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.