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Thursday, 15 May 1980
Page: 2272

Senator KNIGHT (ACT) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to earlier questions I have asked him about student association fees at the Australian National University. The Minister will recall that he had indicated that the ANU council would meet on 9 May to consider this matter and a statute relating to it. Has he yet had a report of that meeting on 9 May? Has he seen the proposed statute prepared by the ANU? What has been the outcome on these matters?

Senator CARRICK -I am aware of the ANU council meeting on 9 May. I understand that the Department of Education has reported to its Minister on the draft statute adopted at the meeting and a draft resolution passed at the meeting.

The proposed statute appears to be consistent with the Government's intentions as expressed in amendments to the Australian National University Act passed, I think, in December last year. However, my advice is that the Department of Education is seeking advice from the AttorneyGeneral's Department on whether the draft statute is acceptable in terms of the requirements of the legislation.

Senator KNIGHT - I ask a supplementary question arising from Senator Carrick's answer. Since the ANU has been extraordinarily tardy in this matter and has discriminated against and acted coercively towards some students at the ANU, will the Government now complete its consideration of this matter?

Senator Georges - Mr President,I take a personal objection to that. I seek the withdrawal of those comments. I am a member of the ANU Council and I take very strong objection to the comments that the Council has been tardy. I am a member on behalf of the Senate and I ask that those comments be withdrawn. I do not think the honourable senator should engage in a vendetta against the ANU in the manner in which he has over the past weeks. That is a personal reflection against me as a member of that Council.

The PRESIDENT - I can see no personal reflection on you, Senator.

Senator KNIGHT - If Senator Georges takes what I said as a personal reflection on him, I withdraw it because it was not intended as a personal reflection on him. But I do believe that the ANU has been extraordinarily tardy, as I said, in this matter. It has acted towards some of its students in a way that I do not believe is becoming. Therefore I ask: In view of the answer given by the Minister, will the Government now complete its consideration of this statute promptly so that there will be absolutely no uncertainty on this matter when the time comes for enrolment at the ANU in 1981.

Senator Georges - Now repeat your comments in answer to the supplementary question.

Senator CARRICK -I will take Senator Georges' advice, which I normally do, because it is helpful to the answer. It is true that the Government regards the belated actions of the ANU as being unduly tardy. The Government believes that because of that certain students have been seriously prejudiced. Therefore, the Government is very keen that this matter be brought to a successful conclusion, and by that we mean that the Government's intentions within the statute shall be fully implemented and there shall be voluntary membership of sociopolitical organisations and that students shall not be compelled to contribute money to support those organisations. Because it is necessary for this to be clarified quickly I will convey Senator Knight 's request to the Minister for Education.

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