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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1697

Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - I have an amendment to clause 4 which in part reads:

(2)   The financial assistance by way of payment of an amount to a State under sub-section (1) is granted on the condition that the State will ensure that the amount is applied towards assisting students in need.

I move:

Omit 'the State will ensure that the amount is applied towards assisting students in need', substitute the following paragraphs:

(a)   the State will ensure that the amount is applied towards assisting students in need; and

(b)   the State will make available annually to the Commission statistics and information upon the following:

(i)   the total amount provided by way of each grant, loan, or by, any other means;

(ii)   the number of students assisted by way of grant, loan, or by any other means;

(iii)   the number of applications for assistance received, and the number rejected;

(iv)   the academic progress of students assisted by way of grant, loan, or by any other means;

(v)   the average interest rates, if any, charged upon any loans made during the reporting period;

(vi)   the amount of repayments due under the conditions of any loan, and the amount of repayments actually made during the reporting period; and

(vii)   the sufficiency of any grant for providing assistance to students in need'.

I said in my remarks in the second reading debate on this Bill that this amendment, which

I foreshadowed, would not go to the whole substance of the Bill. The aim of the amendment is not to interfere with the initiative of the universities in making grants or loans to students during this year. Indeed the universities and the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education have already, in most cases, made grants or loans to students. What we seek to achieve with this amendment is information that will be in the hands of those in the college of advanced education and in the universities who advise the Government. I extend my remarks to cover the amendment which will be moved to the States Grants (Universities) Bill so that it will not be necessary to take up the time of the House by repeating my argument.

The aim of this amendment is to provide the Government with information which will enable it to make future policy decisions in the whole area of student assistance, that is to say in the area of assistance to students under the old scholarship scheme, which obviously will be radically revised when fees are abolished, and also any other additional scheme which might continue and which is similar to the present scheme involving one-shot grants to needy students. It has been suggested by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) that this will be a one-shot scheme because so much will change. I think the implication was that the need for assistance may well not be there when fees are abolished and other changes are made. Precisely, our point is this: We want to ensure that needy students are in fact really assisted by the Government. We do not for a moment accept the assumption that the abolition of fees will get to the nub of the problem of assisting needy students. We believe therefore that the Government has a high responsibility to develop a long term policy consequent on its changes and, of course, in the light of needs which many of us perceive without some of the changes which the Government is introducing anyway. So this is a matter which is of particular importance at the moment; it is a matter which, of course, has a more general importance in any grant of money to any kind of institution by any government in this country.

I think that all of us in this chamber would accept the proposition that there ought to be accountability for the expenditure of public moneys. Some honourable members may say that the 2 Bills involve only a mere $3m. But, if you like, this is the thin edge of the wedge. A great deal of money will be expended in the future on aid to needy students just as a great deal has been expended in the past. So we want to see accountability. We ask for no interference in the affairs of the institutions. Indeed, the whole thrust of our thinking during the second reading stage of these Bills was that we would want to encourage more initiative at the university and college level and less in the way of ham fisted action or distantly administered bureaucratic rules and regulations. I do not wish to delay the Committee any longer because there are many other matters to come before us. I have moved an amendment to clause 4 of this Bill and I will move a similar amendment to the States Grants (Universities) Bill shortly.

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