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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 796

Mr LINDSAY(4.18) —Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker. It is a pity that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) did not record in his speech the criminal conspiracy of the previous Government in its failure to provide veterans' benefits to the many thousands of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginals who served this country in its time of peril.

I came to the chamber this evening to talk about the high increase in demand for places in Australian universities over the last few years, which is the result of a number of factors, including programs that have encouraged secondary students to stay longer at school. Another reason is the growing recognition that tertiary qualifications are an advantage for people seeking jobs in Australia's changing and increasingly competitive labour market.

Universities and colleges of advanced education claim that, as a result of the increased demand and the limited growth in tertiary funding, they have had to lift entry standards, particularly for the more highly technical courses. Others claim that there is still room in the tertiary system for institutions to take in more students without additional funds. However, many applicants have missed out on courses for which their marks would have qualified them in earlier years, and others have missed out on tertiary places altogether.

In Queensland the participation rate in tertiary education is lower than the national average, placing school leavers at a special disadvantage. Many students who achieved high tertiary entrance scores have been turned away from universities in Queensland because places cannot be found for them. As a result many of our young people and their parents are bitterly disappointed. Prospects for increased tertiary admissions in Queensland are somewhat limited, to put it mildly. I understand that this year the University of Queensland received about 11,000 applications for approximately 3,500 places. Last year 60 per cent of the original 9,534 applicants who had nominated the University of Queensland as their first preference failed to gain admission. The competition is fierce. In 1980 a student with a tertiary entrance score of 880 would have qualified for admission as an architecture student within the University of Queensland. In 1984 the minimum tertiary entrance scorce at the University of Queensland for an architecture student was 945. Students who achieved tertiary entrance scores in the mid-700s and the mid-800s range seem most seriously affected as they now have been excluded almost totally from higher education.

As a result many able students do not get the chance to receive a tertiary education. Not long ago students with similar school academic results would have entered tertiary institutions. At one high school in north Queensland only 35 per cent of the students who completed grade 12 in 1984 are continuing their studies. Of those students who are continuing their studies, only one-fifth of their number are attempting an associated diploma course. It seems that tertiary institutions in Queensland are persisting with a staff-student ratio of 1:11. The national staff-student ratio is 1:13. If Queensland institutions were to increase the student ratio it is possible an extra few hundred young Queenslanders would enter tertiary institutions who might otherwise be excluded.

The Hawke Government, an authentic Australian government, has provided an extra $65m for tertiary education in 1985 compared with 1984-the largest annual increase since 1977. Unquestionably the rundown in the tertiary education system has occurred because of curbs on funding imposed by the last Liberal-National Party Government. It is clear that the Liberal-National Party has no real policy on tertiary education and its performance in government from 1975 to 1983 indicates that tertiary education would not be a priority for a future Liberal-National Party government. Young people are the greatest resource of this nation. Only a Labor government can fulfil the hopes of the Australian people in providing access to tertiary institutions and thereby enable them to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for a productive working life and for full participation in an increasingly complex society.