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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3746

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) (12:21 PM) - During the course of the debate I was asked one or two questions. Specifically, I was asked why there are 2 permanent members of the Australian Universities Commission and only one on the Commission of Advanced Education. I think this is a question of historical development. The Universities Commission has for a very long time operated with one permanent member and, as honourable members would know, the Bill now before the House seeks to add a second permanent member to that Commission. In terms of total finance and the number of students, a judgment was made that the workload of the Commission, even though its number of institutions is smaller, at the moment is still greater than that of the Commission of Advanced Education.

I think the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) would realise that there has been a steady development in the colleges. The changes that are incorporated in one of these Bills now before the House turn a committee which, while reporting directly to the Minister for Education and Science, was still part of the Department of Education and Science, into an independent statutory commission. Although this is proper in terms of status and prestige and from the point of view of its relationship to the Universities Commission, honour able members need to have it explained to them, as the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) has pointed out, that the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education has for a large number of years operated with a good deal of independence and in precisely the same manner as it would have operated if it had had the independent statutory powers of a commission. So I do not really believe that the changes the Government proposes are of great substance. Nevertheless, the changes are proper and should be made.

As the work of the Commission of Advanced Education further develops, as I have not the slightest doubt it will, the student numbers in colleges will grow dramatically. I cannot foretell what the progress might be in future years, but clearly it is an area of growing involvement and maybe at some future time the membership of the Commission of Advanced Education will need to be examined to determine whether a second permanent member needs to be added to it. I regret that I am again unwilling to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. In some sense, the amendment is similar to the one moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) in relation to an earlier Bill and I had something to say about that at that time. I believe that even the honourable member for Bendigo should recognise the progress that has been made in colleges of advanced education over the last 3 to 6 years. He has one of these colleges situated in Bendigo and will have seen its growth. He will have seen its development. He will have seen the transformation of old buildings and the construction of new buildings of a very high standard. He will be well aware of the greatly increased morale, stature and status of the college at Bendigo. This situation is something which is repeated right around Australia. One of the pleasing things which 1 have no doubt the honourable member is glad to see and which I, coming not from a capital city area, am also pleased to see is that the colleges of advanced education are opening up and making it easier for many students in country areas to obtain opportunities for tertiary qualifications. I have no doubt that that situation will continue. I am glad for the participation in the debate of the honourable members who have shown an interest in these matters. But again, on behalf of the Government, I say that we are unwilling to accept the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.

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