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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1513

Mr HAWKER(10.18) —I wish to support the remarks made in this chamber on Tuesday by my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) concerning the combined effects of decisions by both the Federal Government and the Victorian Australian Labor Party Government on country students wishing to further their education in tertiary institutions in Melbourne. As my colleague said, the Federal Government, through the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) has reduced the assistance available for residential colleges and halls by 25 per cent. Furthermore, in the Federal Budget this Government has cut in real terms the value of the tertiary education assistance scheme allowance and has scrapped the students loan scheme. All this re-enforces the view that is now so prevalent in rural areas that this Government cares little for country people in general, and in particlar cares little about helping country students obtain tertiary education away from home.

I deal now with the particular problem in Victoria. There are four hostels for country students seeking tertiary education in Melbourne. The Victorian State Labor Government is planning to close them at the end of this year and to sell them. These hostels are: Alan Ramsay House in Queens Road, Cowabee in St Kilda Road, Warwillah also in St Kilda Road and Pinamani in Clayton. These hostels are owned by the State Government and are run for country students seeking accommodation in Melbourne. Over 200 beds are available in these four hostels. In addition there are two more hostels in Melbourne-Minimbah and Frank Tate House. These hostels will be changed from providing accommodation for tertiary students to providing accommodation for secondary students. Between these two there are another 150 beds.

Thus, all told, the State Labor Government is proposing to abolish accommodation for 350 country tertiary students in Melbourne. The State Government has very kindly offered the Federal Government first option to buy these hostels. The State Labor Minister for Education, Mr Fordham, says that he hopes the Federal Government will take up this option. But the Federal Minister for Education and Youth Affairs said in answer to a question today in the Senate on this matter that she has not received any representations from Mr Fordham to this effect.

Mr Hodgman —None at all?

Mr HAWKER —No, none. This leaves the students in these hostels in the untenable position of not knowing where they will be living next year or, in many cases, whether they can afford to continue or to finish their tertiary education. Of course, the overriding question that comes from this is which government, State or Federal, accepts the responsibility for providing hostel accommodation for country tertiary students. Will both governments just wash their hands of the whole matter? This is an urgent matter, as I can assure this House that there are many very worried parents in country areas right now. I believe we cannot sit back and let this buck passing between the State and Federal governments jeopardise the education future of several hundred country Victorian students. The matter is far too important to allow a delay in ensuring the future of these hostels and, more importantly, of the students who are living in them, who should not be left in any further doubt. In conclusion, I say that it is time both the State and Federal Labor governments started to realise that country people are both Victorians and Australians.