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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 873

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)(11.46) —I must admit that I am rather disappointed with Senator Peter Rae's contribution to this debate. When he came into the chamber to join the debate I was looking forward to what we on this side of the chamber have come to expect from Senator Rae-that is, a very independent, intelligent and clear exposition of a point of view. However, I am afraid that he is terribly confused . He tried to say, or certainly to imply, that the legislation, which is being supported by the Australian National University and has been, I believe, the wish of the ANU since 1979 when it opposed the Fraser amendments, was being foisted on the university. He was saying that ANU does not really welcome the legislation although Professor Karmel, the Vice-Chancellor, has said it does, but that it is only putting up with it because it is the Government's view. In fact, Senator Rae used the very unfortunate analogy of rape to suggest--

Senator Peter Rae —I withdraw and apologise. I accept that the reference could be offensive and I am sorry for using it. I once used the words 'motherhood statement' and I got 10 phone calls complaining about that. Again, I apologise.

Senator RYAN —I accept Senator Rae's gracious apology and withdrawal of that analogy. It is not the case that this is something that is being foisted on the Council of the ANU. It is a case that in 1979 when the Fraser Government interfered with the life of the ANU in this unacceptable way, the Council at the time opposed such interference. I speak not only as the person who is currently the Federal Minister responsible for the ANU but also as a local senator and as a post-graduate of the ANU and therefore as a person who has close associations with the ANU, with Council members, with the Vice-Chancellor and the academic staff and with the general staff and students. It has been my strong impression that since these restrictive amendments were introduced by the Fraser Government in 1979 it has been the view of the ANU that they should be removed.

Senator Peter Baume —That is not what you said in Committee and you know it.

Senator RYAN —When Senator Baume is on a losing streak he always resorts to the most pedantic quibbles about semantics. It is my view that the collective wish of the ANU Council and the ANU is that these restrictions be removed. Council members certainly expressed that view in 1979 when the restrictions were introduced and those views have been expressed on a number of occasions since. I remind the Senate that the correspondence I have had in the course of this debate spoke of the Council not just putting up with a decision that the Government had made, but welcoming it, concurring with it, providing constructive advice and assistance on its implementation and so forth. It is to the credit of the Council that it did this. I am afraid it is not to the credit of Senator Rae, who I understand has been a most effective and active member of the Council, to suggest that the Council just had to agree because the Government was going to do it anyway.

Senator Macklin has already pointed out that university councils throughout this country regularly oppose the views of the Government, and that the ANU council has opposed the view of the Government in the past. The only fair and objective assessment of the view of the current ANU Council is that it is welcoming and endorsing these amendments because that is what it wants. Anything else is a slight on the ANU Council and no such slight will be tolerated by this Government or by me.

Senator Baume said that the issue of whether fees should be compulsory had not been addressed by me in my response to the previous parts of the Committee discussion. This is a red herring. The issue of compulsory fees is not at stake. The Fraser amendments in 1979 did not remove the compulsory levying of fees on students for student services. There is no argument in the chamber that there should be compulsory fees levied on students for student services. The argument is whether those compulsory fees can be used for certain purposes. The compulsory fees are there. As Senator Macklin said, there could be just as many objections from students whose money, compulsorily levied from them, is being used on sports facilities-something that would be agreed to by Senator Baume and other honourable senators opposite-that they would never want to use as there could be about it being used on student activities that they do not approve of. One cannot say: 'We support compulsory levying of fees and we think that those fees can be used for sports facilities and catering and so on, but we do not want them to be used for other activities'. There is no consistency in that. Both sides of the chamber support the compulsory levying of fees for student services.

Senator Baume —No. What about the amendment we lost last time? We said the payment should be voluntary for those services. We have been consistent.

Senator RYAN —No, I am afraid that Senator Baume's attempts to suggest that he has been consistent will not succeed. The 1979 amendments by the Fraser Government, which we are now seeking to remove, did not affect the compulsory levying of fees for student services. Fees were still levied for sports and so forth. The argument in the chamber today is about the direction of those funds. The Opposition and Senator Harradine say that the funds ought not be directed to certain purposes. We say that that decision must be made internally within the university. Obviously this debate is becoming very protracted. I simply repeat that the Government does not accept the Opposition's amendment. We do not accept that the kinds of restrictions that the Opposition's amendment would maintain at the ANU are conducive to the proper operation of a democratic institution. We oppose the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Peter Baume's) be agreed to.