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Wednesday, 9 March 2005
Page: 89

Senator NETTLE (3:40 PM) —by leave—Pursuant to notice of intention given on Tuesday, 8 March 2005, I withdraw business of the Senate notices of motion Nos 1 to 27 standing in my name for nine days sitting after today. Before doing so, I understand that agreement has been reached for me to seek leave to make a short statement on the matter.

Leave granted.

Senator NETTLE —The Greens moved this disallowance within the appropriate time, as laid down in the standing orders, because we have consistently opposed the deregulation of the higher education system by this government and we hold legitimate concerns about the process which has led to 27 institutions listed in our disallowance motion gaining higher education provider status. The Greens’ intention in moving this disallowance was to allow for there to be public debate on the deregulation of the higher education system, which is something that the Minister for Education, Science and Training was calling for just last week, at the same time that he was proposing that these 27 institutions be listed as higher education providers.

The Greens do not support the deregulation of the higher education system, but at the very least there needs to be a more transparent process in deciding which institutions get listed as higher education providers. Our intention was to delay this wave of regulation until the debate had occurred. However, it appears that some of the institutions listed in our disallowance motion have already engaged students on the basis of future access to FEE-HELP—that is, they have led students to believe that they will be able to access higher education status before the disallowance process has been completed. Many of these students have already made decisions and moved interstate. On the basis of these arrangements, they were given their institutions.

We do not intend to impact on those families or those students, therefore we are withdrawing the motion. But it is important to note the criticisms of these institutions having informed their students that they will be able to access higher education provider status before the process for parliamentary debate on this disallowance has occurred. As a result, senators have been put in an invidious position regarding this disallowance, and the proper functioning of the parliament has been compromised by this process. It has undermined the ability of the Greens to represent the views of our constituents through the proper process of the parliament, and we will be raising these issues with the minister.