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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1700

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - I think the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has indulged in semantics. All mat the Opposition was asking for is the acceptance by the Government of an amendment for both Bills so that adequate information would be available and so that this Parliament could have an adequate responsibility for the funds that it appropriates. The Minister said that he is perfectly satisfied with a system which allows money to be handed to universities and colleges with very broad discretion as to how that money is spent. He will not know how any of it is spent. He said that the answers will come to the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education in any case. If past experience is any guide those Commissions will not be able to collect information which by statute they are not entitled to ask for. The Minister will know that in his own Department there has been a reluctance on the part of tertiary institutions to provide information concerning students. I am quite certain that that reluctance will remain. Therefore his suggestion that the information will be collected but that he merely does not want to put that requirement into legislative form is, I think, quite false.

The form of the amendment proposed surely is proper. This Parliament has a right to know how funds devoted to student assistance are spent and what impact that assistance has in aiding students who might otherwise have to work in the long vacations or the short vacations to get through university more quickly than might otherwise have been the case. The suggestion that because a means tested living allowance for all students will be available later and that therefore students will not want or need emergency assistance at some stage is, I think, a very naive suggestion indeed. The information that the Opposition suggested should be collected would indicate whether scholarship holders receiving a living allowance are given emergency assistance by way of grant or loan under this provision. I would have thought that a number of Commonwealth scholarship students in that category would get some assistance from the universities. But the Minister will not know. He is not prepared to accept an amendment that will enable him to find out. He suggests that he is reluctant to accept the amendment because the universities are responsible to State Auditors-General. That is true, but are they going to be responsible to State Auditors-General when he and his Government are financing the totality of the universities?

Mr Beazley - They will be grants under section 96.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - If they are grants under section 96 will this Parliament have no responsibility for the way in which those funds are expended? Of course, reports will have to go to the Universities Commission or the Commission on Advanced Education so that this Parliament will be able to judge that moneys are spent as the Parliament has ordered that they be spent. For the funds that are now voted to the universities and colleges for capital works there are, of course, reporting procedures to the Commissions. If my memory is correct the requirement for those reporting procedures are at least in part contained in the Acts which deal with the establishment of the 2 Commissions.

What really is the objection to having such a requirement in this Act? The Minister thinks that it will be only a one off proposal for one year because he says that an all-embracing means tested living allowance will entirely cover the situation in the future. That is really taking a much too narrow view of the need for emergency and special assistance for students from time to time. If this is to be ruled out the advance that was being initiated by this particular measure, something which the Opposition applauds, is not anything like as great an advance or as good an advance as I and the Opposition generally had hoped it might have been. It is clear that the Government intends to oppose the amendment but we will vote on that when the time comes.

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