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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4764

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Minister, do you stand by your claim in the education budget statement that `recent OECD statistics show that . . . students in Denmark contribute 40 per cent' of their course costs? Or are you prepared to admit that this estimate is not only the direct contribution students made to course costs but includes the transfer of public money to private sources such as subsidies to individual Danish students for the cost of living, such as food and rent expenses? Minister, have you misled the parliament yet again in an attempt to justify your higher education course cost increases?

Senator VANSTONE —I am not aware of the points that you raise. If you think there is something that is misleading in that statement, give me the information.

Senator Bob Collins —She just did.

Senator VANSTONE —I will take the opportunity, thank you Senator Collins, to have a good look at it. You might find out a bit later why I will take the opportunity to have a second look at anything Senator Stott Despoja says.

Senator Bob Collins —Oh, we know.

Senator VANSTONE —You will find that out sooner or later. Senator, if you think there is a mistake, give us the information and we will acknowledge the mistake and correct the error, if that is the case.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, are you aware that the OECD report Education at a glance actually states:

. . . the initial and final private shares by students in Denmark are 1.2% and 37.9% representatively and that the differences are accounted for by public subsidies to student households, most of which are subsidies for student living expenses.

Minister, does this mean that the real contribution by individual students in Denmark to the costs of their course is in fact 1.2 per cent, not 40 per cent as you claim in your budget statement? If so, is this a case of you misleading the parliament by neglecting to mention that your 40 per cent figure—a figure that you have used—actually includes public subsidies?

Senator VANSTONE —Senator, I can only repeat for you the answer I gave to your first question because your second question is essentially the same. What I said to you is: if you have some information that indicates we have made a mistake, give me the information. Give me the opportunity to have a good look at what you are alleging, to check what you are alleging—and there is good reason to check some things that you say. You'll find out about that in a minute too—people in glass houses, Senator.

All I can do is repeat that if a mistake has been made we will come in and immediately correct the error as soon as we have had the opportunity to check what it is that you allege. I cannot do any more than that.