Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 896

Mr JARMAN (Deakin) - I rise to speak tonight on a matter which has caused me considerable concern and which I believe requires prompt action, investigation and clarification. The matter concerns 2 private students from Malaysia who entered Methodist Ladies' College at Kew in Melbourne with student visas from the Department of Immigration at the commencement of 1973 with the aim of obtaining their Higher School Certificates in 1 974 and subsequently pursuing a medical course. The 1974 handbook and guide for students for entrance into the medical faculty at Monash on page 42 stated:

That no more than 10 per cent of the quota of 160 students shall come from overseas to study in Australia under the student visa student of the Department of Immigration.

This would have meant, of course, that 16 vacancies would have been available for overseas students in the medical faculty at Monash, and these 2 girls would naturally expect that they would at least stand a chance of entering the medical faculty under the then existing quota system, provided they registered a good score in the Higher School Certificate examination, which in actual fact they did. However, the Victorian Universities Admissions Committee guide for prospective students for the following yearthat is, for 1975- which schools received only towards the end of last year, at page 83 states that for overseas students in the medical faculty the quota had been suddenly and radically changed. The students 'guide for 1975 states:

At Monash the faculty of medicine has agreed to set aside up to 8 places-

Which is exactly half of the number under the previous situation- in first year for students from overseas who have been awarded scholarships by their home governments. Such students are not accepted unless their qualifications are equivalent to those of local students to gain admission. An application made by a student from overseas who holds no scholarship, however, is most unlikely to be successful.

The two girls to whom I refer both gained results last year which lie inside the cut-off point for a student to be accepted by the Faculty of Medicine at Monash. A letter from the principal of Methodist Ladies' College to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Monash on 10 February 1975 and also a letter to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on the same date point out that clearly these 2 girls who scored well in the Higher School Certificate examination are being penalised and disadvantaged by a sudden change in the regulations. They are being penalised because they are private overseas students. So far no answer has been forthcoming from either Monash or the Minister.

My own office just recently contacted the Minister for Education by telephone concerning the matter and was told that universities were autonomous institutions and that the Australian Government cannot intervene. I do not refute the right of universities to be autonomous institutions, and as a Liberal I do not approve of undue interference or direction from Canberra, but there are 2 points which I feel should be made. Firstly, the Government adviser, that is, the High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, allowed these girls to come to Australia for the express purpose of preparing for and eventually undertaking a medical course, which under the then existing regulations they would clearly have been able to do. In fact, one of the girls has 2 sisters who have been accepted by the Monash Faculty of Medicine under similar circumstances. The second point I make is that no one, not even the school concerned, was notified about any change in Government policy until the Victorian Universities Admission Committee handbook was sent to the school late last year.

Until now it has always been the policy of the Victorian Universities School Examination Board to insist on 2 years notice for any change in the regulations. Is it fair, therefore, that these 2 girls should be so penalised by this sudden cut in the quota of overseas students? I believe some investigation and some explanation should be forthcoming. I am glad to see that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) is at the table because the university year is about to commence and I think immediate action is required.

Also I have received a letter from the principal of the Methodist Ladies College, Kew, advising me that 5 more Asian girls, one from Indonesia and four from Malaysia- I have their names here if either the Minister for Education or the Minister for Labor and Immigration would like to have them- were interviewed by the Australian

High Commission in the countries concerned in June 1974, and they not only expressed a desire to prepare for a medical course but were advised to complete the required application form No. Ml 130 which signifies this clearly. This they duly did.

They were not told of the sudden and dramatic change in the regulations which was obviously unknown to the High Commission at that time. The first notification of any change did not come until October when the 1975 handbook was issued. The 5 girls concerned are now all enrolled at the Methodist Ladies College, Kew, this year- four in the Higher School Certificate year and one in the fifth form- having come to Australia at considerable expense with the express purpose of completing a medical degree. They are now confronted by a new university regulation which makes it almost impossible for private overseas students to enter the Faculty of Medicine either at Monash University or the University of Melbourne. To stop them coming here on a wild goose chase surely the High Commission and the school concerned should have been informed about the embargo which is now placed on Asian students.

An approach was made by the Student Counsellor at the Methodist Ladies College to a Mr Bert Miles, who is concerned with overseas students at the Department of Education, and Mr Miles has stated that he was powerless to help in any way. It is my opinion that this matter clearly has now become a political question which can only be resolved at ministerial level. It is unfair that these students should be treated in this way. In the case of the first 2 girls I mentioned, they both came to Australia at considerable expense to follow medicine as their career, believing that they would be able to do so. They completed their leaving Certificate and Higher School Certificate with the Methodist Ladies College, Kew. Does the Minister for Education feel it is fair- I am sure he would agree that it is not- that these 2 girls, and no doubt many others from other schools, who have been permitted to come to this country to study medicine should then suddenly be confronted with this impenetrable barrier to their studies?

As I have said, up to this moment neither the representations to the Minister for Education nor to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine have brought any reply. I believe the situation is grossly unfair and I for one protest strongly. I feel that this Goverment should act promptly to investigate and clarify the situation. In my maiden speech to the Parliament over 8 years ago I expressed the hope that Australia would become the university of Asia, a training ground where students from other countries could come, graduate and return to their countries to better the living standards of their people. Australia has gained a great deal of goodwill in this regard, far more goodwill than probably any overseas trip by Australian politicians or Australian Prime Ministers. All the goodwill that has been built up over the years will be destroyed if administrative decisions are allowed to undo all the good which has been done in this regard in the past.

Suggest corrections