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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 1053


Mr RUDDOCK(11.57) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to speak on the estimates for the Department of Education and Youth Affairs.


Mr Dawkins —If he had any choice, he would not.


Mr RUDDOCK —That may be the case, but you gave me the call, Mr Deputy Chairman, and I welcome that. I would like first to put in context the estimates about which we are speaking. There has been a rather interesting phenomenon in relation to the Budget and that has been the marked unwillingness of Ministers to defend the decisions that have been taken in the Budget as they impact upon their portfolios. It is interesting to read the transcripts of some of the addresses that Ministers have given when they have spoken to special interest groups. I was interested in the address particularly of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt), who showed a distinct unwillingness to defend the amounts that were allocated for the housing of veterans. I was interested in the comments of the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones), who berated his colleagues because they did not recognise the priority that ought to be accorded to science.

Honourable members have come into the House tonight and talked about education, but none of them have shown a willingness to defend the decisions taken by the Government in the context of the priorities established by the Government for fixing the programs that it would reward or fund and indicating substantially the reasons why it would not give priority to other programs. I would have been very interested in the discussion if the honourable member for Diamond Valley ( Mr Staples) or the honourable member for Chisholm (Ms Mayer) had been prepared to address those questions.

For some time, I have been involved with education in the sense that I represent the Parliament on the Council of the Australian National University. It would be fair to say that over a period I was led to believe that one would expect to find a very different approach to education funding under a Labor government.

People were quick to criticise the former Government for the amounts of money that it made available, for the way in which it provided allowances for students and for the amounts of money that were available to fund particular institutions and organisations. One would have expected student papers throughout Australia to laud this Budget under a Labor government and to commend the Government for what it had been able to achieve on behalf of students. One would have expected the academics to indicate with approbation the way in which this Government was performing. Strangely enough, that does not appear to have been the case.

My attention was drawn to a student paper called Student Times. It is the only national student paper in Australia. The September 1984 edition is headed ' Education in Crisis', and states:

The Federal Budget, unveiled by Treasurer Paul Keating on August 21, demonstrated clearly that students don't count as far as the Hawke Government is concerned.

Despite this Budget being widely promoted as the first volley in the coming early elections, students were dealt only token increases in allowances, more plastic rhetorics and a few other crumbs left over from Labor's record spending feast.

That is the view of some students of the way in which particular programs that have an impact on them have been funded.

An item in the Australian of 30 August 1984, which was written by the education editor and was headed 'Furious Academics slam Ryan and Government', stated:

Academics yesterday delivered a stinging attack on the Hawke Government's education policies, including a vote of no confidence in the Minister for Education, Senator Ryan.

The annual meeting of the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations (FAUSA) censured the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, his senior ministers , and Senator Ryan.

The item continued:

The resolution, combined with a highly critical address from the outgoing president of FAUSA, Dr Adrian Ryan, captured the level of disillusionment of university academics towards the Federal Government, which they supported strongly at the election last year.

Further down, the article stated:

The recent tertiary funding guidelines from the Government were even more worrying because of the policy statements included in them, he said.

That point was made by Dr Ryan. The article continued:

The guidelines were the most interventionist introduced.

'There are implications that in the areas of student admission, student access and participation and affirmative action the institutions must attempt to implement government policies or else they will be forced to do so.'

Dr Ryan went on to say:

. . . academics had not lobbied the Government as well as they could have.

Dr Ryan was obviously critical of his colleagues. The article in the Australian further stated:

Delegates to the meeting passed a resolution saying that FAUSA had no confidence in the understanding or appreciation of the needs of higher education by the Prime Minister or his senior ministers. Nor did it have confidence in Senator Ryan's ability to secure adequate responses to those needs.

Comments were made about salary and other related matters. The article stated:

. . . Dr Mayo said Senator Ryan was incapable of defending her portfolio and totally insensitive to tertiary education interests.

Those are astounding comments, and I am surprised that honourable members opposite have not come into the Parliament to defend their Government's priorities. When the former Government was in office I went about universities more frequently than one can imagine defending the Government's record on its programs. Nobody appears to be willing to defend this Government's priorities. Some of those priorities need to be drawn to the attention of honourable members . Recently the Government decided to remove the support for residential colleges . It intends to phase out support for students attending residential colleges and colleges of advanced education. One might have expected that Australian Labor Party members opposite would argue, as they have in the past, that students at colleges represent a privileged and financial elite. Perhaps that is their view. I have not heard them say that in this debate but, even if they did, it would not be the case.

A survey was carried out recently of the students who occupy residential colleges and halls in universities and colleges of advanced education. That survey found, amongst other things, that 80 per cent of college students come from non-metropolitan areas, that their sociological and educational backgrounds did not appear to be especially privileged and were typical of university students in general, and that colleges played an important part in acclimatising students, particularly those from rural and isolated areas, to a new environment . These are important factors that ought to be acknowledged. I am surprised that the Government has taken this view in relation to the funding arrangements for colleges that are such an important adjunct to higher education.

I turn to tertiary allowances. We have seen the continuing situation, which my colleague the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Blunt) has addressed, wherein the amounts that students receive in the form of tertiary allowances are significantly less than the amounts that they would receive were they undertaking no courses of study and were simply receiving unemployment benefits. In the pre-1982 period the difference between the amount received under the tertiary education assistance scheme and the amount of unemployment benefit received by an independent student over the age of 18-I understand students in that age bracket constitute 79 per cent of those receiving TEAS-was $8.43. In November 1982 it was $4.79. In May 1983 it was $9.04. In November 1983 it was $ 13.99. In May 1984 it was $15.99. In November 1984 it will be $18.51 and in May 1985 it will be $14.36. That is a significant difference. Notwithstanding the Government's professed concern about these matters it has said that it is examining the question and it has called for reports and so on-this question has not been addressed. It is an important one which, if the Government is realistically addressing the question of increased participation in education, it has to look at it. We have not heard Government members saying why their priorities in education spending are such that this matter cannot be addressed. It is a pity that in these truncated discussions we will not have an opportunity to hear Government members being prepared to defend the priorities that their Government has established, because I think there are many questions in the education area that should be discussed.


The CHAIRMAN (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Wednesday, 12 September 1984