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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1917

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct a question to the Minister for Education and Science. Did the Senate of the University of Sydney decide yesterday to increase student fees by an average of $70, or 161 percent, for the 1972 academic year? Is this decision likely to be the catalyst for Australia-wide increases in university fees? Does the Government take a serious view of the rising economic barrier to higher education? If so, will steps be taken to give such financial assistance to universities as will make further increases in fees unnecessary?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) -The honourable member would know that the question of the fees imposed at a particular university - a State university - would be a matter either for that university itself or for the university and the State Government concerned. The Commonwealth's support of State universities is not affected by the level of fees. The contribution forthcoming from the State is affected because we match on a $1 for $1.85 formula the total of fees plus whatever the State Treasury contribution might be. This is therefore a matter that is within the province of the university concerned or of that university and the State Government.

I do not accept that there are rising economic barriers against young people studying at universities or at colleges of advanced education. There have been - if not in every year in very many years - very substantial increases in scholarships of different kinds from the Commonwealth and from the States - State teacher training studentships in particular. If the honourable member were to check I think he would find that there are now record numbers pf scholarships available from Commonwealth sources, very substantial numbers of State studentships from State sources and a higher proportion - I do not want to be held entirely to ransom for saying this but I think my memory is right - of students- at universities on Commonwealth scholarships than has been the case in the past. I will check on that. If it is not correct I will let the honourable member know. But I am pretty certain that my memory is right. So the Commonwealth has acted in these matters. The living allowances and other provisions under Commonwealth scholarships have steadily increased also as costs and other things have risen.

The honourable member seems to share with some other members of the Australian Labor Party the philosophy that it is all right for some things in the community continually to rise, namely, wages but that the cost of other things, namely, services and the various provisions made by government should remain static. That is just not a reasonable proposition. If a situation exists in which the costs of running universities and other institutions and the provisions made by the States are to increase considerably on an annual basis because of very substantial increases in wage levels it is unreasonable to expect the cost of providing those services to the community - in this case the cost of providing higher education - to remain as it was in earlier times when wages and other matters were at very much lower levels. I think the honourable member would help the situation if he were to direct his plea for restraint not only to the universities but also to other sections of the community as well.

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