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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3733

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) I shall briefly say something about the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). I thank honourable members for taking part in the debate. The honourable member for Fremantle foreshadowed that the Government would not accept the amendment. Of course, in saying that he was right. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) suggested that we should give some thought to the principles which lie behind the amendment. This has been done. These matters have been proposed on a number of occasions.I believe that the principles on which we operate are basically much more valid than the ones on which the Opposition appears to operate. The honourable member for Fremantle indicated that he believed that the States would be glad to be relieved of the burdens and problems of tertiary education and that this area should be taken over by the Commonwealth.

Mr Beazley - Financial burdens.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - All right, financial burdens. If the Commonwealth is to accept the total financial burdens, is it thereby also to accept total responsibility for the location, timing, government and management of the universities in the States? Is it a reasonable or rational proposition to have a situation in which universities, which are established under State legislation, whose timing and beginnings are decided by State governments and whose location is and should be decided by State governments, are to be financed solely by the Commonwealth? I do not think that that is a reasonable proposal. The inevitable result of the Commonwealth assuming total financial responsibility for tertiary education would be that the Commonwealth would make total decisions. This certainly would not be in the interests of education of any kind. It would indicate an extreme move of power and influence to the centre of government in Australia. I would have thought that one of the things the honourable member for Wills and other honourable members concerned with education wanted to support was the decentralisation of authority so far as education is concerned. That proposition is not consistent with greater centralisation of finance and responsibility.

Mr Reynolds - I would like to argue that proposition too.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Does not the honourable member prefer decentralisation of educational authority?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hailett)Order!There are far too many interjections.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The only other point I mention in relation to the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Fremantle is the annual suggestion that the formulas between the Commonwealth and the States should be altered. At present it is $1 to $1.85. The principal argument used by the honourable member for Fremantle seemed to be that the Commonwealth received back much of its additional expenditure through increased taxation. If that is to be allowed as a legitimate argument in this context, I think the honourable member should concede that the Commonwealth provides roughly half the recurrent revenue of the States, excluding their business undertakings, through the financial arrangements which we have with the States. The fact that we provide half the States' recurrent revenue also would be a legitimate argument to put into the balance. If we received additional funds in the form of income tax revenue as a result of some measure of this kind, we need to bear in mind that we are providing very substantial funds for the States in any case. By those means nearly half of what the States pay is paid for by the Commonwealth. I do not think that the arguments which the honourable member put on that point carry great weight. The Government does not accept the amendment. I am glad to know that, once the amendment is defeated, the Opposition will support the Bill.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Beazley's amendment) stand part of the question.

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