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Thursday, 8 March 1984
Page: 646

Senator COLSTON(4.49) —I would like to give a short background to the statement tabled by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) on 5 March. In October 1979 the Commonwealth and State Minister for Education met as the Australian Education Council. The Ministers decided that college of advanced education and university staff covered by Academic Salaries Tribunal recommendations should be paid the rates recommended by the Tribunal. This decision referred to all staff including vice-chancellors and college principals. The decision of 1979 was confirmed by the Commonwealth and State Ministers in June 1982. Section 42 (2) of the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1981 permits the Minister to reduce grants to tertiary institutions by an amount by which salaries have been paid in excess of those recommended by the Academic Salaries Tribunal. The statement tabled by the Minister sets out the amounts to be subtracted from the various institutions' grants.

I will mention the situation in Queensland. The University of Queensland had $ 13,000 subtracted from its grant because of overpayments to the vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellors. The James Cook University of North Queensland had $ 3,000 subtracted from its grant because of an overpayment to a vice-chancellor. The same amount was deducted from the Griffith University grant and for the same reason. The most amazing consequence of the Minister's announcement was criticism of her by the Minister for Education in Queensland, Mr Powell. I will quote from statements in an article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin that were made either by Mr Powell or the political reporter, John Gagliardi. The article stated:

Senator Ryan has been increasing the strength of her threats over the past six months or so, and has now acted.

By reducing grants to universities, she is imposing what amounts to de facto Federal Government control of university salary levels.

That part of the article was not in quotes so it may have been the political reporter's comments, not Mr Powell's. The article also states that Mr Powell:

. . . told the Bulletin from Brisbane yesterday that Senator Ryan's attitude was ''socialistic'', and she was not recognising the traditional autonomy of universities and university colleges.

Later on the article states:

The amount involved at this stage is believed to be around $20,000.

Of course the amount was not $20,000 at all; in the case of James Cook University of North Queensland it was $3,000. From that article it is patently obvious that Mr Powell does not know that Australia's education Ministers agreed to this course of action. It is also obvious that Mr Powell does not agree with his own Government which has appeared before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission advocating that workers should not get the 4.1 per cent consumer price index increase in their wages and salaries. Apparently Mr Powell applauds the payment of salaries from the public purse above those which are awarded by a proper tribunal. It is time that the Education Minister in Queensland got his act together and understood that if public funds are not being used correctly the responsible Government will act to rectify the position .