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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 553

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Government recently announced its decision to provide an unmatched grant of $3m this year to help students who are experiencing hardship in commencing or continuing their tertiary studies at universities or colleges of advanced education because of financial circumstances. The purpose of this Bill is to provide grants to the States totalling $2.096m to enable universities to assist needy students. The Australian National University will receive $69,000 and the balance of the total of $3m will be made available to colleges of advanced education. Provision for grants to the States in respect of colleges of advanced education will be the subject of another Bill.

The assistance scheme is to be administered by the respective universities and assistance will be given in the form of grants or loans, depending on individual circumstances, and will be available to pay fees, living allowances and other approved educational expenses. It will be a matter for each university to determine who should receive, assistance but I would expect that grants would be made available to students who are in extremely difficult financial circumstances following misfortune outside their control, such as death, injury, serious illness or desertion by breadwinners of families on ordinary incomes; the annihilation of family income in flood, drought or bushfire; seasonal or chronic unemployment of the breadwinner; loss of earning power by the breadwinner for any other reason; unreasonable refusal of financial support by parents; and to the children of age, invalid or widow pensioners.

The funds to be provided for each university are set out in the Bill in the proposed new Eighth Schedule to the Act. In most cases these funds will supplement existing university funds which have been established by university authorities for the purpose of assisting needy students. The allocation of funds between universities has been determined by me in consultation with the Australian Universities Commission, and each university ViceChancellor has been advised of the amount that his university will receive for the purpose of assisting students in needy financial circumstances. I am most gratified by the promptness and willingness with which the ViceChancellors have acted, in anticipation of this legislation, to ensure that consideration was given to cases in which students had declined to enrol or re-enroll because of financial difficulties. This represented a considerable burden on university administrations at a very busy time, and in some cases involved re-opening enrolment procedures. I trust that the Commonwealth's decision will have made it possible for many students to pursue their studies who might otherwise not have been able to do so.

With the Government's announcement that tertiary fees are to be abolished as from the 1974 academic year, I do not envisage that the need for assistance of this nature will be as great in the remaining years of the 1973- 75 triennium and, for that reason the Government decided that grants should be made in the 1973 academic year only. However, I would expect that those funds, properly managed, as I am sure they will be, will provide a continuing source of assistance for needy students in future years. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.

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