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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2091

Mr SIMMONS(2.52) —Both the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) and the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Coleman) attempted to use the same old scare tactics, particularly with respect to the Catholic system of education throughout Australia. The reality is that under this Government such schools will receive substantially more funds compared with the situation under the previous Government. Quite clearly, there is nothing that such schools have in common with the 41 schools that have been designated to receive funding cuts next year, a decision, I might add, which was clearly signalled earlier this year by the Australian Labor Party policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke).

Let us get an important aspect correct about the question of the automatic nexus. When the nexus was operating, the gap between the most wealthy schools and the most needy schools had grown from about 21 per cent to about 29 per cent . Yet the people on the other side have the audacity to come into this chamber and suggest that the Government is doing something fundamentally wrong in directing funds towards those most needy schools. If the Government had not made the decision this year to break the automatic nexus, schools in category 3 levels would have received $5m less in 1984 compared with the $5m more that they are going to receive as a results of the Government's decision. I think that the other hypocrisy and misrepresentation of the people on the other side is amply demonstrated by the fact that when the honourable member for Wentworth talks about the tertiary education assistance scheme, it is worth while recalling that under the previous Government TEAS was not increased in three out of the last five years. Yet they have the hide to come into this chamber and get very excited about a decision that this Government has made with respect to TEAS. Let us not become too excited and critical of the actions of this Government in just under eight months. We should compare this Government's actions with the fact that in three out of the last five years of the administration of the previous Government there was no increase in TEAS.

My main purpose in entering the debate this afternoon is to make some comments about a recent decision tied up with the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission report, that is of great importance to rural education throughout Australia. I refer particularly to the decision of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission in respect of the Orange Agricultural College, which is located in my electorate. The college has been in existence for a very short time-only since 1973. Its governing structure-a very capable governing structure , the board of management-has been operating in that time largely under the auspices of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. Attempts have been made in recent years to destabilise the college, and constantly over the last few years the educational sword of Damocles has been held over its head, particularly with respect to its future funding.

Some 12 months ago the Fraser Government sought an educational shotgun marriage between the college and another institution. This action was rejected not only by the board of management of the college but also by the staff and students of the college, people throughout rural Australia and particularly rural organisations such as the Livestock and Grain Producers Association of New South Wales and the National Farmers Federation. The Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) , who was at the time the shadow Minister for Education, took the opportunity at my invitation, and also at the invitation of the Orange Agricultural College, to visit the institution to see for himself exactly what the problems were. We gave a commitment that an incoming Labor government would have nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of forced amalgamation, that there would be no shotgun marriages for educational convenience under a Labor government. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Hollis) mentioned the University of New England, the Armidale College of Advanced Education and other such institutions throughout Australia which were threatened by the inane education policies of the previous Government, the members of which now deservedly sit in opposition. I believe that this Goverment's decisions were very right and proper. The assurance given with regard to not having a forced amalgamation was repeated by our present Prime Minister at an election rally that was held in Orange on 28 February this year. There has certainly been no equivocation by this Government with respect to the funding of institutions that were threatened with forced amalgamation.

Since I have been the member for Calare, since 5 March this year, I have had a number of discussions with college authorities, both staff and students. I have been a strong supporter at all times of the need for an autonomous corporate status to be granted to the Orange Agricultural College. On 2 September this year, in a news release that was issued in Bathurst, the New South Wales Premier announced that he had written to the Prime Minister with a request that the Orange Agricultural College be granted corporate advanced education status from next year. He called on the Commonwealth to reject any proposal that the funding of the college would be conditional upon its amalgamation. That is a very important point: He called on the Commonwealth to reject any proposal that the funding of the college be conditional upon its amalgamation. The New South Wales Minister for Education, Mr Mulock, also made representations to the Commonwealth and set out co-operative arrangements which could be entered into between the Orange Agricultural College and the Mitchell College of Advanced Education, both of which are very fine educational institutions situated in central-western New South Wales. A joint co-ordinating body is to be established by the councils of the two colleges, which will be responsible for advising on the rational development of higher educational services in the central western region. Mr Wran announced these arrangements about mid-September, along with his decision to grant advanced education status to the Orange Agricultural College.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 3 p.m. the debate is interrupted in accordance with the resolution of the House of 20 October. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The honourable member for Calare will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed.