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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2593

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(12.34) —As the Senate is aware, the legislation before it has been amended by the Government to take account of the facts concerning difficulties faced by some existing students in meeting the increases. I would like to say at this stage that I have also taken account of the views put to us by the Opposition and by the Australian Democrats on this matter. What we now have before us is, I think, a very realistic, fair and reasonable arrangement for existing students. Are you right, Don?

Senator Chipp —No, I am not right.

Senator RYAN —The level that will be charged for new students has been established by the Government.

Senator Chipp —If you want co-operation you should not sneak things through as you have just done with this, ahead of the rest.

Senator RYAN —Could I have a bit of order please, Mr Deputy President?

Senator Chipp —Can't you act honourably?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Chipp!

Senator Chipp —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. The red sheet clearly stated that the broadcasting and television legislation was to follow the sales tax legislation. The Liberals were expecting it and we were expecting to debate it. Without any notice, without any courtesy being paid to our party, the Minister got up and moved that the student charge legislation take precedence. That is a pretty sneaky sort of trick. If the Government is going to do that, at least it should pay us the courtesy of telling us that it is going to do it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The Chair is not in a position to monitor inter-party courtesies. The document does say that it is issued as a guide to honourable senators and that the business that is listed is subject to change, and it has in fact been changed.

Senator RYAN —In summary, the Government is not prepared to accept the further amendments that the Australian Democrats wish to move. To do so would be to impose an unreasonable cost on the Government, which has to balance its desire to assist overseas students to study here with many other responsibilities, including, of course, those towards Australian students. However, the Government is prepared to accept the amendment to be moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Peter Baume. In our judgment it clarifies or makes explicit what is implicit in the legislation; namely, that for the years subsequent to 1986 there can be some flexibility in the level of charge for existing students. It may well be that the Government will wish to exercise that flexibility, and so we have no objection to Senator Peter Baume's proposed amendment.

On the question of how the Government arrived at the actual charges that are to be made to students, I do not think there is any point in engaging in a lengthy argument with Senator Macklin about this. We have on a number of occasions made available information which was provided to us by the Tertiary Education Commission and the charges, as levelled, will be as they have been explained-35 per cent of the average cost of courses in 1986. It is the intention of the Government to raise that percentage of full cost to 45 per cent in 1987, although that will require further action. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.