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Thursday, 12 September 1985
Page: 504

Senator COOK —I ask the Minister for Education whether she has seen the Press report in yesterday's Canberra Times where a spokesperson for tertiary students is reported to have said:

From pre-school to higher education, the Federal government has initiated cuts and Senator Ryan refused to speak to us.

Has the Minister refused to see these tertiary students? If the Minister has met with them can she inform the Senate of the result of that meeting?

Senator RYAN —I met with quite a large delegation of students yesterday who represented students who had gathered to campaign for various improvements in student allowances. They had a very lengthy discussion with me. They raised a number of issues. They were particularly concerned to discuss the effect of our new overseas students policy to charge overseas students. We had a lengthy discussion about that. I was also able to explain to them that they were under some misapprehension if they thought that there had been any cuts in tertiary education. They were very pleased to learn of the significant increases we have been able to make in tertiary funding in each of our three Budgets, and of the consequences-over 25,000 extra places will be created in higher education institutions over the next triennium. They were also able to learn accurately the effect of the Budget on student allowances-all of which will increase. We did not go into the area of schools funding but I was able to provide them with a package of information indicating that schools funding in all areas has increased overall despite the fact that some programs will proceed at a slower rate than before.

What I said to them I will say again to the Senate. It is perfectly understandable and right that student organisations should campaign for improvements in student circumstances, but their campaigns are much more likely to be effective if they are based on a factual understanding of the budgetary decisions that have been made by our Government. I think it is unfortunate that some people like to have campaigns based on misinformation. That, of course, misleads the students and causes them to waste their time. However, I think that after the exchange of information and views we had yesterday we will see a much more realistic campaign by students. I was pleased to wish them well.