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Thursday, 18 November 1993
Page: 3164

Senator TIERNEY (4.07 p.m.) —I rise to speak on the annual report of the Department of Employment, Education and Training which has been presented today. In particular, I want to refer to the direction of higher education in this country, as revealed by this report and as revealed by a number of other committees that have met in recent times. The shape of what is emerging for higher education under this government was summed up this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald which said that what used to be Dawkinisation has now become the Beazleyisation of the university system.

  I wish to distinguish between those two things. The Dawkinisation of universities was the jamming together of the CAE sector and the university sector, creating enormous trauma in the system in a period of growth. I alluded to this extensively whilst speaking about a DEET report yesterday. What has come out in this annual report and what has come out in the newspapers in the discussion of the Beazleyisation of universities is the grand plan under the new Minister for Employment, Education and Training (Mr Beazley). Basically, that will stunt the growth of the university sector.

  Here we have a party in control of a country at the moment which put out a document at the end of the Hawke era saying that it wanted to create a clever country, and it is creating a clever country by moving resources away from the university to the TAFE system. There is nothing wrong with the development and expansion of the TAFE system in this country; that is to be encouraged. This government neglected TAFE for over 10 years, suddenly discovered it again, and by the creation of ANTA and other means, it is putting resources into TAFE. That is great; that is to be commended.

  But because its policies have been inappropriate in higher education for so long in terms of generating enough sources, the government has put a cap, as the Sydney Morning Herald called it this morning, on the university sector to slow down and stunt the growth of universities. It has dressed this up by saying, `Well, we're doing great things for new areas'. Yesterday Senator Robert Ray picked up the wrong briefing paper and started talking about the redistribution of money in the system.

Senator Robert Ray —I didn't have a briefing paper.

Senator TIERNEY —Whatever notes the minister used, he misunderstood the point of my question. It was not about redistributing money in the system to the growth areas, which is commendable and is what should happen. I was talking about the slowdown in the total growth of the whole university sector, which can be seen by the fact that the number of new places that will be created from 1996 on, specifically in 1996, is only 1,500 across 36 universities. That comes to a very small number of students per university. What we have seen is a tragedy for young children in this country who aspire to a university education. I had the opportunity of a university education, as many of us here had, and it certainly was not as difficult to get into university then as it is now.

Senator Loosley —What was the retention rate for senior high school under Fraser?

Senator TIERNEY —The retention rate under this government is much higher, and the driving force is the high unemployment rate.

Senator Robert Ray —You did absolutely nothing in this area.

Senator TIERNEY —Let us look at the comments that the minister made yesterday. He said that in Victoria there is a higher participation rate in universities and a higher number of students want to enrol. Of course they do, because of the appalling employment double whammy created by the combination of a Victorian Labor government and a federal Labor government. Obviously more

people want to go to university because they cannot get a job! The government touts the increased participation rate, but it is largely driven by the lack of jobs. Those who want to go to university cannot get in because each year the tertiary entrance score goes up. Why does it go up? Because there are not enough places for those who aspire and are qualified to get in. Yesterday I gave the example of my son who will have huge difficulty getting into the school of architecture. That is a disgrace for him and all other children who aspire to a university education. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.