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Wednesday, 17 November 1993
Page: 3021

Senator TIERNEY —My question is directed to the minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training. Can the Minister confirm Mr Beazley's reported comments in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 November that total new university places will be cut back to 1,500 places by 1996? Is the government's proposal to do this in the face of more than 40,000 qualified students consistently missing out on a place year after year an admission of the complete failure of the government's university new enrolment policy?

Senator ROBERT RAY —The purpose of Mr Beazley's comments was to point out that it is very important that government devote resources to cover all areas of Australia and that one has to take into account the fact that in some areas of Australia the population is growing far more rapidly than in others. I understand that was the import of his speech.

  He pointed out that Victoria, in particular, did not have a growing population—its population is almost stagnant, only slightly growing—compared with some areas in Queensland and Western Australia, where growth is more strong, and there may need to be a reallocation of resources to meet those trends. That is not an unusual thing in government; it has happened within cities. It will also happen now around Australia to make sure that all students have the appropriate opportunity to complete a tertiary education. I have not yet caught up with the full text of the speech. I will endeavour to do so and if I can add anything to the response to Senator Tierney's question I will do so.

Senator TIERNEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister obviously has not caught up with the text because he has missed the whole point of the question. I am not talking about redistribution around Australia to growth areas, which is very necessary. I am talking about the grand total of numbers dropping. I ask the minister for guidance on what I should advise my 14-year-old son Michael, who aspires to a university place in architecture in 1996, the year of this ALP government's savage cutbacks in new enrolments in total.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would suggest to Senator Tierney that I would be the last person in the world he should ask to give him some guidance as to the activities of his son. I am sure that he has inherited his father's genes and therefore his academic career will follow a particular course. But I did indicate at the end of my answer that I would endeavour to get some more information on the basis of his question. As I said, I have not read the speech. I read some newspaper reports of it. Having had previous discussions with Mr Beazley, I knew part of what he was thinking and I referred to that in my answer. As to the other parts, I will get Senator Tierney some information.