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Wednesday, 8 November 1967


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - This Bill will not delay the House for very long, and 1 thank the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for his co-operation in allowing the Bill to be dealt with at this stage. This, I believe, will suit the convenience of the Opposition and of the House. The Bill is to establish in Canberra a tertiary institution to be called the Canberra College of Advanced Education. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) stated that the College will be an autonomous institution, responsible to the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) but governed by its own council. I will have a word or two to say about that conflict. The second purpose of the Bill is to set out the functions of the College and the way in which in will operate.

The Bill was presented in another place by the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) and was adequately debated by the Opposition in that chamber. I am satisfied that the Bill has been examined adequately. In the course of that examination in another place two amendments were moved. I have no intention of moving those two amendments here. Therefore the Bill need not go into the Committee stage. ButI shall notify the House of the amendments and explain why the Opposition considered it necessary to move them. Earlier I pointed out that the Minister had said that the College will be autonomous. The important clause of the Bill is clause 5, which sets out the functions of the College. Here we find an inconsistency or clash between the general concept of autonomy and what the clause in fact provides. The clause reads:

The functions of the College are -

(a)   to conduct, in the Australian Capital Territory, an institution for the provision of education and training of such kinds, and in such departments of science, technology, art, administration, commerce and other fields of knowledge or of. the application of knowledge, as the Council, with the approval of the Minister, determines or as the Minister requires.

What the Council can do is subject all the time to the approval of the Minister. The Opposition, in its discussion of the Bill, considered that this was taking the powers of the Minister too far and that the college could hardly be autonomous - it is quite a contradiction to call it autonomous - while the Minister has these powers. So, in another place, the Opposition moved for the omission of the words 'with the approval of the Minister' from that clause. We agree with the action taken by the Opposition in the Senate and we consider that such an amendment should be accepted by the Minister for Health in this chamber.

Clause 25, relating to fees, considerably restricts the autonomy of this new college. The clause states: (1.) Subject to this section, fees are payable to the College, at such rates as, subject to any directions of the Minister, the Council determines for all courses of study or instruction of the College, for entry to examinations conducted by the College and for such other facilities or privileges of the College as the Council determines or the Minister directs.

This gives the Minister powers well above those of the Council, so the Opposition in the Senate moved two amendments to the clause, the first to omit the words 'subject to any directions of the Minister', and the second to omit the words 'or the Minister directs'. The Opposition in this chamber approves of those two amendments also and considers that the Minister should accept them. Apart from this inconsistency between the so-called autonomy of the college and the power of the Minister, the Opposition approves of the Bill. We have stressed this lack of autonomy because for centuries the autonomy of various institutions of education has been carefully guarded. It has been considered that unless they are free of outside interference they cannot properly perform their work. For these reasons the Opposition considers clauses 5 and 25 to be defective, but approves of the establishment of this college in Canberra and hopes that it will be a success. We have previously expressed reservations about these tertiary colleges and we will be watching carefully to see that they do not amount to some dilution of university education by the provision of a lower standard that we otherwise would not accept.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.







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