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Thursday, 3 October 1974
Page: 1653

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - In relation to this Bill it is my suggestion that we have a cognate debate involving the States Grants (Universities) Bill 1 974 and the Universities Commission

Bill. I suggest to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) that that course be followed.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - The Government has no objection to that course being taken.

Senator RAE - The Opposition does not oppose either of these Bills and will support their speedy passage. My colleague, Senator Baume, will speak in relation to certain aspects of the States Grants (Universities) Bill. I make no further comment than to say that this particular piece of legislation is to provide further funds in relation to the expansion of university activities in certain areas. The Opposition, when in Government, took steps to establish the Australian Universities Commission. It took steps also to upgrade universities substantially. As a matter of fact, I think that one of the matters of which we can be justly proud is steps which we took to create in Australia a system of funding of universities and the development of opportunities for university education and for university research and academic life. This Bill carries forward the concept which we introduced when in Government. The Opposition certainly supports it.

In relation to the Universities Commission Bill there are 2 bases on which changes are sought. The first involves an additional full time deputy chairman for the Commission. With the substantially increased work which the Commission has to undertake and with the importance of the work which it has to undertake as I have already mentioned- bearing in mind the fact that it was the Opposition Parties when in Government which created this Commission- we entirely support that it should have available to it that membership which is necessary for the Commission to carry out its very important functions. The Opposition certainly supports the recommendation that there should be an additional full time deputy chairman. We will support that part of the Bill wholeheartedly.

However, I express a reservation about the second part of this particular Bill which alters the definition of 'university ' in the principal Act- the Australian Universities Commission Act- to restrict the meaning of the word to institutions established by Australian and State parliaments. Whilst I in no way suggest that there should be an open go for universities to blossom whenever anyone feels they would care to create the university of Sidi Barrani or whatever it may be in any part of Australia, I do not like the idea of the door being closed so that the only type of universities which are possible are those which are in effect run by the State. They are and remain semi-autonomous bodies in Australia and it is highly desirable that they should continue to be semi-autonomous bodies. The opportunity should be available in appropriate cases for what might be regarded as private universities or other types of universities to be created.

Of course, we are concerned to ensure that adequate standards prevail. Of course, there must be a need for legislation approving the creation of a university. It must be subject to some form of supervision by the Parliament and by the executive government. But I wish to take this opportunitywhilst in no way opposing this BUI- to record that the Opposition does not want to be taken as supporting the idea that all universities must forever and a day be State run universities. The private function ought to remain available. The Opposition seeks to place that caveat upon our support of this particular legislation.

This was referred to in greater detail in the debate which took place in the House of Representatives. I support the views expressed in the other place by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) who dealt in particular with this aspect of it. I simply make reference to that as going further in the explanation of the attitudes which I express. So that this matter may be expedited I make no further comments although I do not wish that to be taken in any way as expressing a disinterest in the subject matter but rather an interest in getting the Bills through this House as soon as possible so that the money may flow and the changes may take place in the interests of the advancement of education.

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