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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1941

Senator BROWN (VICTORIA) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing opinion amongst doctors that the number of elderly people in the community is growing and that, with the exception of the new-born, illness occurs more frequently in the elderly than in any other group; if so, has the Commonwealth Government initiated any project designed to ascertain the need for future geriatric services.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The number of elderly people in the Commonwealth is increasing; at present there are approximately 1 million persons in Australia aged 65 years and over, and it is estimated that this figure will have reached 1.7 million by the end of the century.

It is agreed that with the exception of the newborn, illness occurs more frequently in the elderly than in any other group.

The Commonwealth has not initiated any project specifically designed to ascertain the need for future geriatric services. However, it should be noted that the planning and provision of such services is primarily a State responsibility.

The Commonwealth has however introduced a number of programmes designed to assist and encourage the provision of services for the aged. These operate under the Aged Persons Homes Act, the State Grants (Home Care) Act, the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act and the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act.

Senator CAVANAGH asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Education and Science:

(1)   Has the Minister received a proposal from the Minister for Education in South Australia, Mr Hudson, asking the Commonwealth Government to finance Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education on the basis of$1 for each $1 spent by the States on both capital and recurrent costs on condition that the States abolish all tuition fees.

(2)   Does the proposal show the resultant savings to the Commonwealth in the abolition of tuition fees of scholarships now paid and reduction in taxation allowance now permitted for student children and the further saving of the fees now refunded by the Commonwealth Public Service to employees who pass approved courses and the tax deduction allowance to employers who now pay for employees to attend Universities or Colleges of Advanced Education.

(3)   Hasthe Minister had the proposal evaluated and would the scheme permit free tuition at Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education with very little additional cost to the Government.

Senator WRIGHT-The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following reply to the honourable senator's question: (I), (2) and (3). The Minister of Education in South Australia, Mr Hudson, wrote to me on 17th December 1971 to suggest that financial support of universities and colleges of advanced education in the States be shared equally by the Commonwealth and States on condition that tuition fees in these institutions be abolished. Having received advice from my Department on this proposal, J replied to Mr Hudson on 2nd March 1972 as follows:

Dear Mr Hudson, 1 have read with interest your letter of 17th December 1971 in which you suggest the abolition of fees at universities and colleges of advanced education in association with a change in financial arrangements so that the Commonwealth and the States would share equally in support of recurrent expenditure in these institutions in the States.

The various elements of indirect cost to which you refer are taken into account whenever we are called upon to estimate the cost of abolishing fees in universities and colleges of advanced education. If these fees were abolished the question of a concurrent change in the respective contributions of the States and the Commonwealth to direct costs would inevitably be a matter for policy consideration. The sum of money involved in the abolition of fees would be in excess of $15m in the first year and this cannot be regarded as an insignificant amount. Governments need to have careful regard to priorities to be accorded to various proposals for additional expenditure on education, whether in tertiary education or elsewhere.

I might also mention that under the revised formula you propose for the sharing of costs, the major part of the cost of fee abolition would be born by the Commonwealth - a preliminary assessment based on 1970 information for universities indicates that at least 80 per cent of the additional cost would fall to the Commonwealth.

However, the financial considerations are not the only, or necessarily the most important, matters to be taken into account in considering a proposal to abolish fees in these institutions. You yourself have referred to the problem facing students from low income families who wish to attend a university or college of advanced education. Under present arrangements a student who is up to the standard required for a Commonwealth scholarship will have his fees paid and, subject to a means test, will receive a living allowance. The abolition of fees would benefit all students now attending university (irrespective of whether they are otherwise assisted) whereas if the same resources were devoted to an increase in Commonwealth scholarship living allowances and/or a relaxation of the means test, the benefit would go to those on lower incomes. There is also the possibility of increasing the number of such awards.

A significant proportion of full-time students in universities is represented by those who hold teacher training scholarships from State Education departments. For those who could not meet the means test requirements of the Commonwealth awards, these scholarships are much more attractive. Perhaps the problem of students accepting these awards and entering the teaching profession reluctantly or discharging their bonds to avoid service as teachers might be tackled by some change in the arrangements under which State governments offer these awards in association with some revision of conditions of service as teachers.

I have mentioned these factors to indicate some of the issues which I believe are raised by your proposition and which were not developed in your own letter. In its development of policies for support of tertiary institutions and for assistance to students who can be expected to have a reasonable prospect of success in tertiary studies, the Commonwealth Government has preferred to direct its efforts to an increase in the number of awards and an improvement in the benefits for those from lower income families.

Yours sincerely, MALCOLM FRASER

The Hon. H. R. Hudson, M.H.A., Minister of Education, G.P.O. Box 778F, Adelaide, South Australia5001

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister representing the Minis ter for Education and Science:

How many students of aboriginal descent were admitted to each of the Australian Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education in each of the last 3 years and to which faculties were such students admitted.

Senator WRIGHT-The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following reply to the honourable senator's question:

With the exception of some statistics maintained by my Department on the number of aboriginal students receiving Commonwealth Government financial assistance, comprehensive information on this subject is not available since aboriginal students are not normally enumerated separately in statistical collections. The numbers of persons who took up Aboriginal Study Grants for the first time in 1969, 1970 and 1971 in courses which are wholly or principally at tertiary level are set out below. Because the Grants are available to students who have already enrolled in courses as well as to those about to commence studies, a small number of the students noted here may have started courses prior to their receiving a grant.


Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   The allowance paid to the wife of a T & P.I. ex-serviceman, which is one component of a total war compensation structure, is presently $4.05 a week.

(2)   The allowance was last increased in 1964, Prior to that it was $3.55 a week.


The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that information on capital expenditure is not available for individual States.

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