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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1936

Senator TOWNLEY —Did the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs see the article in the Australian earlier this week headed 'Student allowance a national scandal', which referred to a speech by Mr Justice Kirby, Chancellor of the Macquarie University, when he was addressing the annual conference of the Australian College of Education in Canberra? Did the Minister note that Mr Justice Kirby said that the tertiary education assistance scheme should be raised to encourage students to stay in education rather than squandering their intellectual birthright? I ask the Minister whether she agrees with Mr Justice Kirby's statement:

. . . the position we have arrived at is quite unacceptable.

. . . . .

If we want to maintain our place in the world, the key to that ambition is to be found in the schoolroom, in the colleges, in the university . . .

Finally, will the Minister say what she and the Treasurer are attempting to do about this matter?

Senator RYAN —I did see the article and I paid some attention to it because I am always interested in what Judge Kirby has to say on education matters. I think he is usually very sensible and very supportive of the view, which is the Government's view, that the proper education of our young people is one of the best ways in which we can expend public moneys. I certainly endorse his view about our low retention rates. In fact, I think Judge Kirby was quoting from some of my speeches when he used some of those statistics. I know that he was because he sent me a copy of his speech and I read it. I think Judge Kirby, along with many Australians who have taken an interest in this area, is aware that our participation rates are very low, and that this poses problems of equity and problems for a government desirous of bringing about a regeneration of our economy and a regeneration of industry. I was pleased to see that Judge Kirby was covering these issues and again drawing the public's attention to some very unsatisfactory situations we inherited from the previous Government.

As to the particular comments he made about levels of TEAS, I think that there were some discrepancies between the figures reported in the article and those provided by my Department. However, I will make several points. It is true that the number of students on TEAS in universities and colleges of advanced education declined from 72,277 at 30 June 1978 to 62,768 at the same time in 1981, but the numbers are increasing again towards an expected 69,000 in 1984. The percentage of students on TEAS, of all full time enrolments in universities and CAEs, was 37.7 per cent in 1976 and 37.2 per cent in 1981, according to my Department's figures. Some 60 per cent of students on TEAS were getting the maximum allowance either at the home, away from home or independent rate in 1976 , 64 per cent in 1981, and 67 per cent in 1983. So there have been some improvements with regard to TEAS, although I would be the last person to suggest that the improvements we have seen are satisfactory.

In conclusion, in general terms I endorse the remarks made by Judge Kirby about the undesirable effects, both for individuals and for our society in general, of low participation rates, and, I add, the need as budgetary circumstances permit to improve the level of support we are able to provide to students undertaking full time training.