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Friday, 4 May 1984
Page: 1607

Senator MISSEN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, and also in the Minister's capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Science and Technology. My question relates to the booklet published recently by the Institution of Engineers Australia, entitled ' Engineering Education in Crisis'. I ask: Will the Minister comment on the report 's claim that the present inadequate funding of engineering education and associated research and development is causing an erosion of the standards of engineering which will be detrimental to the economic development of Australia? In the light of the repeated statements made by the Government supporting the development of new high technology industries I ask the Minister, firstly, what role does the Government see for engineering education in the development of high technology enterprises and, secondly, will the Minister assure the Senate that adequate funding will be made available by the Government to professional engineering schools to ensure that they have sufficient staff, facilities and equipment to provide engineers skilled in the latest technology who are able to keep pace with the increasing rate of world technology progress?

Senator RYAN —I am aware of Senator Missen's interest in engineering education. I say that in principle I endorse the sentiments about the importance of engineering education expressed in his question. I have had representations from engineering education interests.

Senator Button —And there will be more, too.

Senator RYAN —I am probably going to get some more from the Leader of the Government in the Senate. There is no doubt that there needs to be no concern in Senator Missen's mind that the Government is not aware both of the importance of the contribution engineering education can make and of the need for more co- ordination, indeed more resources in this area. I assure Senator Missen that this is something to which the Government is addressing itself. I have just received the first volume of the triennial report of the Tertiary Education Commission. That report will be available publicly in the next few days, as soon as it is printed. It addresses these matters. The Government will be making its response to the recommendations of the report in due course. Senator Missen sought some assurances about funds being forthcoming to meet all the needs of engineering education. Of course, Senator Missen will be aware that neither I nor any other Minister is in any position to give firm commitments about amounts of money. However, in the context of considering the recommendations of the Tertiary Education Commission for the development of the whole of the higher education and Technical and Further Education area in the forthcoming triennium, I assure him that the Government and I will be giving very serious attention to the needs and future development of engineering education.