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Tuesday, 16 February 1971
Page: 36

Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - As the honourable member for . Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has said, the Bill before the House deals with several changes to be made in amending the Australian National University Act. I want to speak on only one aspect of the proposed amendments, namely, that amendment dealing with the proposal to increase the size of the Council of the University from 38 to 41 members.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is far too much conversation in the chamber.

Mr MacKELLAR - Honourable members will know that the proposal before the House seeks to add to the Council the President of the Australian National University Students Association as an ex officio member and also to increase the representation of the non-professorial academic staff of the Institute of Advanced Studies and of the School of General Studies from one member each to two members each.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I reluctantly must interrupt the honourable member in his speech. I have suggested that honourable members come to order. If; in spite of my 3 warnings, they do not. take cognisance of my calls, I will have to deal with the members concerned.

Mr MacKELLAR - Under the proposal the Council of the University will consist of 12 members appointed by the GovernorGeneral, 7 ex officio members, 6 members elected by heads of schools and professors, 4 members elected by Parliament, 4 members elected by non-professorial academic staff, 4 members elected by convocation, 2 co-opted members from outside the University, one member elected by research students who, of course, are graduates, and one member elected by undergraduates. I have some sympathy with the remarks of the honourable member for Fremantle concerning student representation because, as a member of the Council, I was privy to discussion within the Council which unanimously recommended to- the Government that, amongst other things, the Council be increased by further undergraduate representatives.

The recommendation was based on several criteria. Firstly, the Council had been most impressed over the years with the excellent contributions made to Council discussion by the student representatives. These single representatives have had an increasingly difficult task to perform. In addition to their responsibilities as students they have had the task of representing ali student bodies on the Council. They have been unremitting in their efforts to acquaint themselves with student views and their efforts to fulfil this obligation, plus their other responsibilities, have, in some cases, precluded the opportunity they have had of taking as active a part in Council activities and committees as would be desirable. Undoubtedly their participation, where possible, has been helpful. I point out that since the student representative has been on the Council student numbers have more than trebled, with a similar proliferation of the clubs, societies and sporting bodies which he alone represents.

In view of the increasing burden being placed on the student representative and because the Students Association felt it should have a voice, some years ago the Council invited the President of the Students Association to attend Council meetings and to speak if necessary. He, of course, has had no voting rights. The amendment before the House formalises this arrangement and gives the President of the Students Association voting rights, lt does this by making him an ex officio member of the Council. The President of the Students Association has many other responsibilities within the University and I believe he may find great difficulty, because of this, in taking part fully in Council activities. There is no doubt in my mind that the student body should have a properly informed voice which has the opportunity to participate fully in Council functions and, while so doing, adequately represent a wide range of student views.

It may be thought that it is a large Council and that it would be unwise to make it too much larger, lt may be felt also that the Council should be a balanced one without undue numbers being achieved by any one section within or outside the University. 1 would agree with both these sentiments but, in looking at the composition of the Council, the one section heavily outnumbering the other sections is that represented by the Governor-General's appointees. Certainly an additional student representative would not alter unduly the balance nor would it lead to a student takeover. If one were concerned about the size of the Council I doubt whether it would be logical to look to the student representation as one in which cuts should be made, lt may be thought that matters concerning students do not come before the Council frequently and that they are dealt with at a lower level. This certainly is not the case. The Council of the University has an important and real role in hearing and understanding the student point of view and considering the student position, lt should be remembered also that in many cases the Council of the University is seen by the students of the University as a somewhat mystical body which docs not understand the problems of the undergraduate body and, more importantly, does not want to understand them. Through student representation on the Council this can be seen not to be the case. Tn fact, quite frequently Council changes its view in the light of representations properly made and properly argued by student representatives.

I believe the two-way flow of communication between the governing body of the University and those being governed to be of tremendous importance. To my mind, the role of the student representatives in presenting Council decisions to the student community is just as important as their role as representatives on the Council. Only good can come from such participation and responsibility. To deny adequate participation is merely to increase the chances of unfortunate mistakes and actions occurring, brought about by lack of information, contact and communication. The Council of the Australian National University is a responsible body with practical and constant experience in the task of administering a great universit It was unanimous in its recommendations to the Government. These recommendations were designed to further develop and enhance a history of achievement in sound university government and practical, workable council-student relationships.

Like the honourable member for Fremantle, I am disappointed that the Government has decided at this stage not to fully endorse the Council's recommendations with respect to student representation. I am glad that the Government has gone part of the way by including the

Presidentof the Students Association as a full member of the Council. It should be remembered that the person holding the position of President of the Students Association is, in fact, elected to that position, so in one sense the elected student representative membership has been increased to two. However, in view of what I have already said, I feel that the President of the Students Association may be hard put to fully discharge all his responsibilities and that a less than desirable student representation and involvement in Council activities may result. As a member of the Council I will have a first hand opportunity to assess the effect of the proposed alterations. Should my fears prove soundly based I hope I will have the aid of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Bowen) in my efforts to have further amendments ratified.

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