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Wednesday, 12 February 1986
Page: 166

Senator MACKLIN(12.25) —I will respond to the Minister's and Senator Baume's comments. The amendment which I have moved states:

. . . except where the Council considers such recommendations to be necessary for the purposes of the report.

I am referring specifically to the report in proposed new sub-section 24a (2) and not to the general matters which, if amended and accepted by the Government, would give additional powers to provide information on specific matters at other times. We are talking about the report and I have deliberately limited my comments to what is necessary to it as set out in proposed new sub-section 24a (2). When one looks at the proposed new sub-section one sees that the report has to be on the state of the universities, the problems within them and the priorities. It seems to be very difficult to talk about priorities without some way referring to finances. The universities may wish to rehearse some of the difficult problems that some universities have had with regard to upgrading and amalgamation. This applies particularly to universities. I find it very difficult to understand why any government should seek to limit to itself information from its own expert body. I am at a loss to understand why it would wish to do that. It could be said that every time the Government has done this in the past it has been of no use. That is fine. It does not make any difference though, because at some time in the future such advice may be useful. The Government could say that in the past it has never acted upon it. This seems an extraordinary admission. The Minister said in the debate that in the past she has never acted on advice from universities. I find that an extraordinary admission; nevertheless, it has been made.

Senator Ryan —And no government has ever received recommendations.

Senator MACKLIN —If that is what the Minister is saying, fine. Under such circumstances the universities councils would probably give up giving advice. However, if one looks at previous university council reports, at what the Commission has recommended and at what the Government has accepted one sees that the Government has indeed taken the advice of universities in these matters. The Government cannot have it both ways. It can say that it has not acted on the advice of any of the councils reports. It cannot say the advice is useless. The logic of saying: `We have acted on it' and `It was useless' escapes me. Putting in a conjunction-which the Minister just did by way of interjection-seems utterly and totally fallacious. One cannot argue both that the advice is uses useless and that one has acted on it. The Government has already argued that the advice is useless, so presumably it has not acted on it. That is what I was drawing my logical conclusion from. However, the Minister has now said that she has acted on the advice, so I draw the conclusion that it was useful. If the advice was useful to the Government in the past, it may be useful to it in the future.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Macklin's) be agreed to.