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Thursday, 25 February 1971

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) -I refer to clause 3 which reads:

3.   Section 11 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraphs (i)to (l), inclusive, of subsection (1.) and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: "(i) two members of the academic staff of the Institute, not being professors, elected by the members of that staff other than the professors;

(j)   two members of the academic staff of the School, not being professors, elected by the members of that staff other than the professors; (ja) the President of the body known as 'The Australian National University Students' Association';

(k)   a student of the University elected from among their number by the students of the University enrolled for study for degrees other than degrees of Bachelor or for courses of research;

(1)   a student of the University elected by the students of the University enrolled for study for degrees of Bachelor and by such other students of the University (not being students referred to in the last preceding paragraph), if any, as the Statutes provide;".

I move:

In proposed paragraph (1) leave out the words a student', insert 'two students'.

This provision, which has been the main subject of contention in the Bill, deals with the composition of the Council of the Australian National University. The Government's proposal is contained in paragraph (I) of clause 3 of the Bil! which is in these terms:

A student of the University elected by the students of the University enrolled for study for degrees of Bachelor and by such other students of the University ... if any. as the Statutes provide.

The amendment which 1 have advanced is based on the recommendation of the University. The Opposition sees no reason why it should not be accepted by the Committee; indeed, we see every reason why it should be accepted.

In the second reading debate the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) had a few words to say about the Opposition's attitude to the University. Here is a clear case of the Council of the University suggesting that 2 students should be added to the Council. They want 2 students, as well as the President of the Australian National University Students' Association, to be on the Council. If the Government is sincere in its attitude to the University, if it wants to help to solve the problems which are created when the students feel that they are excluded from participation in the affairs of the University, why on earth does not the Government agree to the proposal made by the body which is responsible for the conduct of the University and which has considered this matter over a considerable period? The Council has discussed the matter and has come to the conclusion that it should recommend that 2 students be elected. 1 do not know, because 1 have not been able to gain the information from the Minister, why the Government feels it to be so terribly important that the recommendation that 2 students be elected should be rejected and that only one student should be elected. In what way will that improve the position? One would think that there would have to be a strong case to overcome the recommendation of the Council of the University. lt knows the problem that it has with numbers; it knows the size of the Council: it is familiar with the administration of the University and the handling of its own domestic problems, and it believes that 2 students should be elected.

When the Minister is dealing with this matter will he indicate to me how the Government has become so convinced that it is right? What investigations' has the Government made? On what basis is it acting when it comes to the conclusion that in some way the Council is erroneous in its recommendation, that it will be: better for the work of the University and the Council for the recommendation of the Council lo be rejected, and that the Government's view should be accepted? My information - I hope the honourable ..senator will correct me if I am wrong - is that Senator Rae, the Government's representative on the University Council, was party to this recommendation which was carried unanimously. I shall proceed on the assumption, unless I am corrected, that that, is right. I would like to be informed early to save proceeding on this assumption if it is incorrect. Senator Rae is the Government representative from this chamber who was elected to the Council of the Australian National University to see how -the University operated and to lake part in the Council's deliberations. If I am correct he came to the conclusion that the proposal of the Council was correct and that there should be 2 representatives of the students.

My understanding in respect of the other House is the same, that both the representative of the Government and the Opposition agreed with this view., as I do. If this is the opinion of members sent by the Government and the Opposition to this body and if this is the unanimous view of the Council, why is this view being rejected? What is the basis upon which the Government decides that the representation must be something different? lt seems to be a capricious exercise for the Government to take this view. For the benefit of Senator Rae, I was suggesting that it was my recollection, understanding and information, although 1 may be incorrect, that he agreed wilh the view of the Council that there should be 2 students elected from among their number by students at the University. If 1 am wrong, perhaps the honourable senator would inform me immediately, but it is my understanding and information that he was concurring in that view, as I did. Here we are dealing wilh a part of (he social life of Australia, and when we find that the body concerned with it has made up its mind in a certain way, and overwhelmingly so, surely it is a reasonable proposition that the Parliament should accede to that view, unless there is a really strong case to say that we should depart from that view. 1 ask Senator Rae whether I am correct in the assumption that 1 was proceeding upon, that he concurred in this view of the University Council.

Senator Rae - 1 shall be speaking on the subject.

Senator MURPHY - If we turn from th. request of the University Council lo general considerations, one finds that all over the world there is a move for greater participation by people in every walk of life. They want to be party lo the decisions which affect them, and that is the attitude of the \oung men and women in the University. They are' not children; they arc young men and women and they want to know why decisions are being made. They want to have representatives on the Council and they are entitled to that. There should not be one representative only because there may be a variety of viewpoints and there may be reasons why more than one should be present. We commonly find in deliberative bodies that more than one voice is needed. This is especially so when the whole body of students is to be represented. After all, they are the people who are the reason for the existence of the university, lt is not there for the professors, nor is if there for the businessmen or the parliamentarians who are on the Council: the reason for its existence is the education of the students. We suggest thai the course followed all over the world indicates that greater student participation in the governing bodies of universities is going to occur. 1 was informed by a student during the lunch hour that as long ago as 1927 in Mexico the governing body of the university became composed of onethird of students, one-third of academic staff and one-third of those who were not in either of those categories but were nevertheless in the university.

Senator Wood - Why should they dictate about their studies? They are there to learn,

Senator MURPHY - 1 think what the honourable senator is suggesting is quite right in one sense, that they should not be concerned with, say, the administration of the university. 1 think they would not want to be concerned with the administration in the sense of the day to day running of the university. However, they might well be concerned about the courses they have and very often they would be concerned lo have those courses upgraded.

Senator Byrne - in appointments to the lecturing staff they demand a say.

Senator MURPHY - They may well be concerned, as apparently the students were al the beginning of the great riots in France in 1968, with the quality of the education that they are having. In France the students were not Irving to make life easier for themselves; they were complaining that conditions were not satisfactory and that they were not getting the education that they wanted. The shock waves from those incidents in France in 1968 went right around the world, but it was very noticeable that after all the riots and trouble had occurred, and after the battling in the streets. President de Gaulle of France said that he was satisfied, having looked into it, that the students were right. Perhaps if those students had been given some say in the governing of their universities it would not have been necessary for the situation to have developed into the riots and revolutions that occurred in 1968. President de Gaulle said in that famous speech of his that this was not the way to go about it but that he was satisfied that the students were right and that their complaints were correct.

We should be looking forward lo much more participation by the students. We will find it in other sections of society. This is the way that the world will go, There will be far more participation in the decisions which affect persons, and the presence of students on the governing Council of the University may well lead to an improvement in the quality of education. It is to their interests that the education be better and it is to their interests that inefficiency be removed, (hat standards be improved and that the cobwebs be blown out of the educational system. In many respects it is to their interest to achieve these things. But whatever is involved, whether their suggestions are right or wrong, they are entitled to know what goes on and they are entitled to participate through some representation in decisions which are made.

I suggest that what is proposed by the Council is very moderate and that it would be reasonable for the Committee to accept the suggestions, certainly in the absence of some overwhelming case against their acceptance. 1 ask that the Committee agree to the amendment.

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