Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1526


Senator PETER BAUME(3.11) —The statement just made by the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) relates to a report from the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission and its recommendations for funding for 1986. Anyone listening to the Minister's statement would have found it hard to understand the details because tertiary education funding is complicated, but the Minister has announced some increased real funding for tertiary education and some money for an increased number of places in higher education. The Opposition welcomes this increase in funding and welcomes the initiatives which the Government has taken to increase opportunities in higher education. However, it will be clear from looking at the educational funding announced by the Government this year that the extra money has been provided for higher education at the expense of the disadvantaged, at the expense of technical and further education and at the expense of Australian schools. People have to determine whether Government priorities which favour higher education over schools, over technical and further education and over the disadvantaged in the community represent a fair set of priorities. It is my belief that they do not. The extent of the funding-rather too complicated to read to the Senate-is set out in a table on page 29 of the report. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

Table 4.1

GRANTS FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION FOR 1985-87 TRIENNIUM

(Estimated December 1984 cost levels) (a)

Sector category

1985

1986

Guide-

lines

Suppl.

guide-

(b)...lines

Total

1987

Guide-

lines

Suppl.

guide-

(b)...lines

Total

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

Higher Education

Recurrent...

1,943.1

1,966.2

+11.35

(c)...1,977.55

1,983.0

19.6

(c)...2,002.6

Equipment...

87.4

87.4

+1.0

88.4

87.4

+2.0

89.4

Capital...

66.9

66.9

+3.5

(d)...70.4

66.9

+5.5

(d)...72.4

Total...

2,097.4

2,120.5

+15.85

2,136.35

2,137.3

+27.1

2,164.4

Technical and Further Education

Recurrent...

158.6

140.85

+3.7

144.55

(e)

Equipment...

14.8

14.8

-

14.8

Capital...

137.3

125.7

-

125.7

Total...

310.7

281.35

(f)...+3.7

285.05

Tertiary Education

Recurrent...

2,101.7

2,107.05

+15.05

2,122.1

Equipment...

102.2

102.2

+1.0

103.2

Capital...

204.2

192.6

+3.5

196.1

Evaluation and Investigations Program (g)...

0.4

0.4

+0.4

0.8

Total...

2,408.5

2,402.25

+19.95

2,422.2

(a) Based on index values shown in Appendix 6.

(b) Approved minimum levels as set out in Guidelines issued in July 1984.

(c) Includes $100,000 for the teaching of Modern Greek at Flinders University and $250,000 for the Graduate School of Management at the University of Melbourne.

(d) Includes $0.5 million as reimbursement to the Queensland Government for the Commonwealth Games accommodation at Griffith University.

(e) Includes $17.75 million for the Participation and Equity Program; this level of funding will be maintained in real terms for 1987.

(f) Reflects decisions announced in the Government's May 1985 Statement of Initial Expenditure Savings Measures (Participation and Equity Program reduced by $17.75m and capital program cut by $11.6m).

(g) The Supplementary Guidelines provide $0.8 million for this program in 1987.


Senator PETER BAUME —Colleges which will be taking extra students in 1986 as a result of these decisions will have rather more favourable marginal funding. We recognise this and thank the Government for it, and I know that the college sector thanks the Government for it also. The fact that there will be more opportunities in universities may mean that the 10,000 people-or maybe it was 20,000-who were turned away from the gates of universities this year will not be turned away next year. Some of them still will be.

It is impossible to look at this funding statement without looking at the groups which will suffer to make the funding possible. First, this funding has been achieved at the expense of the disadvantaged in our community. We need look no further than at the Government's decisions on funding for the participation and equity program. The participation and equity program has been cut in half. The money saved by cutting that program in half for 1986 may well have been reapplied to higher education, but it represents less funding for the disadvantaged using PEP, to give more funding to universities. The Government announced PEP in this chamber. Senator Ryan announced it with great fanfare. It was laid out as `the centrepiece of the youth policy of the Hawke Government'. The Government had so much regard for the program that this year it announced that the funding was to be cut by half. The people whom this program has helped-the long term unemployed and those who have used the school-to-work transition program-are the ones who will do without in 1986. Much of the funding which has been cut will be taken away from TAFE because it was the technical and further education sector that was using the PEP funds to help disadvantaged young Australians.

No matter how the Government twists and turns, it must acknowledge that in providing extra funds for its favoured groups, the universities and colleges, it has chosen to make the disadvantaged who use PEP pay for part of that expansion. Of course, PEP was for the disadvantaged and therefore the funding may have been seen to be expendable in the eyes of this Government. It seems that the priorities of this Government do not go to the disadvantaged but rather to the universities and colleges, which are to be the beneficiaries of the extra money while the disadvantaged suffer. If we look at what the new funding will provide for technical and further education we see this borne out. The table which has been incorporated in Hansard shows that, whereas TAFE funding, funding for the technical education of Australians right across the board in vocational training, was almost $311m this year, under the guidelines which the Minister has brought in today-we would not have known it from her statement-it will drop to just over $280m for 1986. The TAFE funding, of course, will suffer particularly because TAFE was the recipient of about half the participation and equity funding.

The TAFE sector teaches people vocational skills. It is the largest sector of post-school education in Australia. It is the most accessible and the most used. Something like three-quarters of a million Australians use TAFE. The Commonwealth's contribution to their funding for 1986 has not been enhanced under these guidelines. It has been constricted, particularly because of the cut in the participation and equity program funds. The Government's priorities clearly do not run to TAFE and to whose who use the system. I remind honourable senators that this year alone perhaps 60,000 Australians were turned away from the gates of technical colleges when they were doing nothing more than seeking to improve themselves. Not only that, but also the Minister has announced that a review will be carried out of TAFE funding arrangements. Many of us fear that such a review will mean reduced funding in the longer term. The Minister called it a wide-ranging review of the Government's role in TAFE. I suggest to those people who are fond of TAFE, who depend on TAFE, who use TAFE and who care about TAFE that they watch this review very carefully because, in the way of government reviews, it could presage a cut in funding.

It is true that the Australian traineeship system which has been announced will provide some extra training places. The Minister in her statement said that there will be 75,000 places four years from now. The Minister has announced the amount of money to be provided for this financial year. How many places will there be this financial year?


Senator Ryan —Next year, 10,000.


Senator PETER BAUME —The Minister says that next year there will be 10,000 places, but the Government will provide only about $1,600 per place. I suggest that those in TAFE had better determine whether that will be adequate for the task.


Senator Ryan —It is only for three months.


Senator PETER BAUME —I just point that out. We come to school funding. It is particularly sad that when the Minister brought in this statement of increased funding for higher education she did not remind the Senate that this exercise has been undertaken against the background of reduced funding for Australian schools. I go to the report of the Commonwealth Schools Commission for 1986. The report, entitled `Response to Government Guidelines', was tabled in this place a few weeks ago. I will read parts of the report which identify just how unsatisfactory the funding arrangements of schools are. We will examine the funding arrangements for higher education against what schools have had to yield and do without. In paragraph 1.2 of that report we read the following in terms of the Government's funding:

The Government has thus provided funding of some $1,474.7m for Commonwealth general resource and specific purpose programs for schools in 1986. This represents a net reduction in real terms of $18.7m or 1.3 per cent, on the 1985 level.

I repeat that-a net reduction in real terms of $18.7m, or 1.3 per cent on the 1985 level. Programs for government schools-and let a socialist government be proud about this-have been reduced in real terms by $18m or 2.7 per cent. That is no reactionary group saying that; that is the Commonwealth Schools Commission. I am trying to point out where some of the funding for this improvement in tertiary education has come from. The Commonwealth Schools Commission goes on to comment in paragraph 1.5:

In particular, the Government has again deferred action on comprehensive proposals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students . . .

The Commonwealth Schools Commission had occasion in its report to draw attention to deficiencies in its funding which did not permit it to take up vital programs for the most disadvantaged Australians-Aboriginal Australians-but we see extra funds poured into the tertiary sector, into the darlings of academe, which this Government has obviously chosen to prefer. We find in paragraph 1.13 this comment:

The Government's decision in the May Statement to reduce funds in the English as a Second Language, Special Education, Multicultural Education and Country Areas Programs has affected areas of considerable need . . .

That is because each of those areas has had-


Senator Ryan —They were minute.


Senator PETER BAUME —The Minister says they were minute. If that is so, why reduce them at all? Why not take some of the money that the Government has found for tertiary education in order to maintain the English as a second language program? Why not maintain special education for the physically handicapped? Why not maintain multicultural education? The Government reduced the funds and it is sending a clear signal by the low priority it gives those programs. When it increases funds in another area it is giving a clear signal as to where its relative priorities lie. The Government's relative priorities lie with the better educated high fliers who use higher education because those are the sectors which are emerging as winners in the statement which the Minister has brought down today. I return to the CSC report. I quote paragraph 1.15:

The May statement also announded a $20m reduction in the Capital Grants Program for government and non-government schools.

That is another expression of Government priority; more money saved to be poured back into the tertiary sector. The Commission goes on to comment that many of the school libraries that were said to be adequate were far below the Commission's standards for school library facilities. The Commission is even disagreeing with the conclusions the Government has used to justify some of its cuts. This Government's priorities, as expressed in its funding, are for higher education, universities and colleges. They do not run to the disadvantaged, technical and further education or to schoolchildren. Schools will get less funding from the Commonwealth; the CSC says so. Every teacher and every teachers' union in Australia should look at this statement today, should look at the funding decisions announced today, should go back and look at the funding decisions announced a few weeks ago and in May, then work out whether they have been given a fair go or not.

There are several other matters to which I wish to draw the attention of the Senate. The first is the distribution of new places in universities. The Government's statement today contains a table which shows the projected enrolment range for each university and each college. When I look at where the new university places will be made available, I discover that it is only in the newer universities. The universities which will gain enrolment are Newcastle, Wollongong, La Trobe, Deakin, James Cook, Griffith, Murdoch and Flinders--


Senator Ryan —The University of Western Australia will get more.


Senator PETER BAUME —The Minister mentions Western Australia but when I looked at the figures I did not think it would get more. If that is the case I acknowledge it, but I did not think so from the table. I would suggest that those who are interested in excellence in universities should ensure that these extra places have been given against the background that excellence in the tertiary sector will be maintained. It is interesting that La Trobe is the last choice of almost every matriculant in Victoria and that in Queensland Griffith University does not rank high among people's choices.

The second matter that I wish to mention concerns places in western Sydney. I understand that the college sector is quite pleased with the recommendation in this report that there should be an institute of technology instead of a university for Sydney's western suburbs. Whatever the name of the institution is, the fact remains that Sydney's western suburbs are grossly underrepresented in the number of places. Western Sydney has a population that is greater than that of South Australia, for example. Its population is much greater than that of Adelaide and it is greater than the whole of South Australia. Looking at the report I find that the number of places available at the Cumberland College of Health Sciences, at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, at the Macarthur Institute of Higher Education and the Nepean College of Advanced Education added together still provide only some 5,500 places. If I then look at the number of places provided for South Australia, just to get a comparison for a similar population, I find that there are some 24,500 places available. It is not surprising to read on page 14 of the report in paragraph 2.23:

The consequence is that higher education participation rates in New South Wales are the lowest in mainland Australia.

It is against the background of participation rates in my State being the lowest--


Senator Ryan —It is very high in universities, but the participation rate is low for CAEs.


Senator PETER BAUME —I am interested in the total number of places available. A young Australian going through the secondary system in my State has less opportunity to participate in higher education than one in any other State. There is still a maldistribution of places, particularly those affecting my constituents in western Sydney, and I must draw attention to this fact.

My final point is that the Government has once again raised the prospect of amalgamation-amalgamation by another name, to be sure, but amalgamation nevertheless-for the University of New England at Armidale and the Armidale College of Advanced Education and also for the two equivalent institutions in Newcastle.


Senator Ryan —You were going to amalgamate them four years ago.


Senator PETER BAUME —Oh! The Minister says that I was going to do it. I set out openly to amalgamate these institutions. This Government made sure that there would be no amalgamation. Now let us look at what the Minister has said:

The Government accepts CTEC advice that there would be benefits from joint planning arrangements by the university and college of advanced education in each of Armidale and Newcastle.

That was Senator Ryan herself saying that. That is amalgamation by another name. This means that the Government recognises there will be benefits from joint planning arrangements by the university and the college of advanced education in each of Armidale and Newcastle. The Minister's statement then says:

The Commission's recommendations for a combined funding allocation for each pair of institutions will be further considered when the Government has evaluated the effectiveness of joint planning arrangements for the 1988-90 triennium.

I say to the authorities in Newcastle and Armidale: If they were worried about my attempt to bring about amalgamation, they should reflect that at least my attempts were open. I called it amalgamation. I went to Newcastle and Armidale and told them that there were educational advantages in amalgamation. But all this Minister talks about is `joint planning arrangements' with the prospect of only one funding allocation for each pair of institutions. We simple people would say that joint planning arrangements with one funding allocation is amalgamation by another name.

I conclude by saying that we welcome the advances that have been made to higher education but we are sorry about the other groups in the Australian educational establishment who have had to pay for them. We are very sorry that the reflection of government priorities has put the disadvantaged so low and has given preference to universities and colleges.