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Thursday, 29 October 1970


Mr DRURY (Ryan) - As usual the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has given the House a thoughtful and interesting contribution. I listened with interest to what he said, although there are one or two points on which I would take issue with him. For example, I doubt the validity of a comparison on the basis of the gross national product of this country with that of other countries. I am inclined to think that in this young, growing and developing country with so many demands upon our resources, the Government needs annually in drawing up its budget to give prime consideration to the total outlay that it can make in the ensuing 12 months in relation to the total amount available for expenditure. Bearing -in mind the fundamental point that governments do not have any moneys of their own - they have only the moneys that are obtained from the people by way of taxation or some other form of revenue - I doubt whether a comparison on the basis of gross national product is really a reliable one. 1 believe the honourable member had a point when he said that education in Australia had developed on a more or less ad hoc basis. Having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth has not been in the education field for many years I think we can look back with pride on a record of achievement which would, I think, be the envy of some other countries. The honourable member did not make any reference to the fact that the total estimated expenditure by the Commonwealth in the current financial year is expected to be an increase of 25 per cent on the expenditure for 1969-70. I believe that this alone indicates that we are moving forward at a considerable rate. I do not want to trespass and go outside the limits of the Bill. I would first of all like to say to the House and to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) that I for one welcome the introduction of these 2 Bills. I regard them as an earnest of the Government's desire to help the cause of tertiary education in general. I also regard the Bills as a fulfilment of undertakings given by the Commonwealth to the States. I wish to quote a brief paragraph from the speech made by the Minister for Education and Science when he presented to this House on 19th August of this year a ministerial statement on the Commonwealth education programme for 1970-71. Under the heading: 'Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education', which are the 2 heads under which these Bills appear, the Minister said:

The proposed Commonwealth expenditure during the financial year on universities am/ colleges of advanced education reflects its support for the continued expansion of tertiary education facilities. Grants to colleges of advanced education are expected to total almost $40m, which is more than 75 per cent above the figure for 1969-1970, while those to universities will total approximately $11 Om, as compared with just under 594m during the past financial year. With respect to the colleges, a significant development for which funds will be provided in the current financial year is the provision of residential accommodation at institutions in country areas.

Moving back to (he Bill, we find that, in the Schedules, the increases State by State in respect of all the various tertiary institu tions are set out clearly. I feel that the Government is fulfilling its promise. It is moving forward steadily, surely and carefully in the wide field of education. I think that this is a field in which the Government is wise to hasten reasonably slowly. Certainly there is much yet to be done and I know that there is no-one more aware of this fact than the Minister himself. After all, Rome was not built in a day. As I said earlier, I believe that we have made good progress in the period that the Commonwealth has been assisting actively in an increasingly big way in the overall field of education.

In his second reading speech on the State Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) 1970, the Minister explained that the additional Commonwealth contribution is in accordance with the recommendations made by Mr Justice Eggleston and is designed to meet the new levels of academic salaries in universities and also salary increases in relation to certain university officers in medical schools. The Bills, as I commented earlier, are relatively narrow in scope. Therefore, I do not wish to go outside that scope and to try to cover the wide field of education in the course of my remarks because I know that there are other speakers who wish to take part in this debate and that we have still a heavy legislative programme ahead of us.

I am sure that the additional Commonwealth assistance that is being provided by these 2 Bills will be appreciated by the governing bodies of the institutions concerned. They are, as the Minister has said in his statement, responsible for determining the actual levels of remuneration of their own staff. While it is true that these levels may vary - and no doubt do vary from university to university - there is, I suggest, a common factor that has to be borne in mind. That is the need to attract and to retain sufficient high quality staff. This can be done only if pay and conditions are adequate. This is one of the main points that the Government has had in mind in the preparation and submission of these 2 Bills.

I hope that, before long, assistance will be given with regard to the greatest single financial problem of all. That is the steep increases in non-academic salaries and wages for which no help at all is provided at the present time. There is, I believe, a strong case for a review of the grants formula in relation to grants to the States for tertiary education. I say this with particular regard to my own State of Queensland with which I am more familiar than 1 am with any other State. The university at St Lucia, as I have said before in this chamber, is in an extremely difficult financial position. The need for a second university in Brisbane is becoming more and more urgent each year.

Colleges of advanced education which, as we know are still evolving, will be assisted and strengthened by the adoption of the Sweeney Report and the willingness of the Commonwealth Government to assist with the establishment and maintenance of residential colleges. I have in my hand a cutting from the 'Australian' of 1st October 1970. This is an interesting article by Mr Graham Williams under the heading: 'College degree issue divides States'. This article deals with the very matter on which I am just touching, that is, the evolving state of the various colleges of advanced education. I am sure that we all hope very much that the Commonwealth and the States can work on the basis of a co-operative partnership in the development of these colleges as in the other fields of tertiary education. 1 believe that, by this means, we can achieve the maximum results.

I make one final plea before I conclude. It is now 13 years since a wide ranging inquiry was held into tertiary education in Australia. I urge once again that in the interests of the universities, in the interests of colleges of advanced education and in the interests of tertiary education in general, early consideration be given to holding another full scale inquiry with a view to rectifying anomalies, streamlining and co-ordinating development and providing the nation with the best possible facilities in all fields of tertiary education.







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