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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3854

Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) - Each of the 5 Bills now before the House deals with tertiary education. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) mentioned that two speakers were to follow him. This means that I must cut my remarks and make them fairly brief. In doing so, I immediately come to the point with respect to the fourth university for Victoria, which has been mentioned to a degree and in which I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are vitally interested with respect to your electorate as I am in relation to the electorate of Bendigo. Following quite a deal of investigation and discussion, as the member for Diamond Valley mentioned, the Victorian Government decided originally that that fourth university was to be sited in the 3 areas of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Following a report presented by the investigating body which carried out that inquiry, this was agreed to by the Minister for Education in Victoria and was eventually brought forward as a promise by the State Government.

That body of inquiry had considered submissions put in by representatives of those 3 country areas. I know that, in particular, a great deal of time, money and effort was spent by the authorities in Bendigo in making sure that their submission stated the case in the best possible manner, setting out the requirements for a university. Also it checked far afield in Victoria to see from which areas of population the need would come for such a university. I am sure that those in Geelong did the same.

Following that submission and the decision by the State Government, we were greatly disappointed when we found out that we would have to wait on the Australian Universities Commission to make up its mind and to report on whether it would accept the decision by the Victorian Government. At the time when the decision was made to site the university in those 3 centres, the responsibility rested with the State Government. Now, the policy has been changed and universities are to be funded entirely by the Commonwealth. We are now in the position where we must wait for the decision by the Commonwealth body. Costs are rising all the time. The wait is becoming somewhat irksome.

Let me put the honourable member for Diamond Valley more clearly in the picture as to what is happening with respect to the inquiry by the Australian Universities Commission. The Commission has visited the 3 areas involved in this inquiry and has just completed its investigations and talks, having held hearings in the 3 centres concerned. Unfortunately, the Press heralded that the Commission had a preconceived opinion as to exactly where this university was to go. It was stated quite emphatically in the Melbourne 'Age' that the university was to be located in Dandenong. This was before the Commission visited Bendigo to investigate the matter. The newspapers in my city stated that the Commission was to support the establishment of the university there on the basis of the existing teachers' college with university extensions and proposed to keep the college of advanced education as a separate entity which would function apart from the university. These statements led to a great deal of heartburning in my electorate, particularly on the part of the council of the college of advanced education in Bendigo of which I am a member. We were anxious to meet the Commission. When we did so, we found that the newspaper reports had not correctly recorded the true state of affairs.

Firstly, the Australian Universities Commission was looking at the possibility of locating the university at Dandenong. Secondly, it was considering looking at the AlburyWodonga area. These were but two of the areas which the Commission proposed to consider. Also, it was considering the possibility of the university combining with the college of advanced education and the teachers college as well as the possibility, as mentioned in the Press, of the college of advanced education operating separately from the teachers' college and the university. One feels that perhaps the Press was looking for news containing startling revelations rather than the facts of the matter which would have shown to the public that the Commission was trying to discover all facets of the matter and report on that basis.

Nevertheless I trust that following all the waffling that has occurred between the Federal Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and his Interim Commission under the control of Professor Karmel, the Commonwealth will get around to agreeing to the decision already made to site the university on the 3-campus basis as being the best way to deal with the requirement. If that is done, we will be able to get on with the necessary work.

Let me explain what has happened as a result of the procrastination that has occurred with respect to this matter. A promise has been made to supply the State College at Bendigo, the fenner teachers' college with S3. 75m so that it might proceed to erect a resources centre and a humanities building. This was promised earlier in the year but suddenly, because of the waffling that occurred on the part of the Universities Commission and the hold-up in the whole situation, this project also was held up. There was some lame excuse that it might not work in with the university when the decision was made. This has all been designed to work in with the university. In the Bendigo area the College of Advanced Education is almost adjacent to the teachers' college or the State college. There are a few acres of land in between. The site is an ideal one because it can be extended and linked up. This was the plan and everybody in Bendigo has worked for this ideal. It was accepted by the State, but now the whole thing has been held up, particularly the building project associated with the State college. I think it is a shame. Building costs are accelerating. This project has been held up now for 3 or 4 months and we will find that more money will have to be paid. Money is being wasted when the job could have been under way at the estimated cost.

The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) also mentioned that $188 is to be spent as part of the funding in 1973-74. He quoted $102m more than was quoted by the previous Government. He blithely stated that it would have paid $86m this year in accordance with previous arrangement for equal participation by the States. He conveniently forgot what he had just said - that the States are paying their share. So in effect the outlay would have been $172m from the State and the Federal governments, an increase of $16m or of less than 10 per cent and far less than the escalating cost caused by inflation. The total sum being spent by the Government on education is excellent and we heartily endorse it, but for goodness sake let the Government not try to put around the idea that it is doing marvellous things. It is not even keeping up with inflation.

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