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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2069

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -In winding up the debate on the second reading stage a number of points have been raised by Senator Wright and also by Senator Rae. Firstly, Senator Rae commented on the definition of authorised person' as appearing in the definitive section of the proposed Bill.

Senator Rae - You may have misunderstood me. I meant there is no criteria regarding what an authorised person is to do.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - All I am advised is that the authorised persons are to be appointed by the Minister and it is expected that they will be senior officers of the Department in Canberra and in the Department's State offices. Under clause 6 of the Bill the Minister may appoint authorised persons. Clause 6 (2) says:

(2)   An authorised person is, in the exercise of his powers and the performance of his functions under this Act, subject to the directions of the Minister.

Senator Raereferred also to the regulations or, to date, the non-making of the regulations. He will recall, as he mentioned, that on 14 November, as reported at page 1 757 of Hansard, I gave him some information about the introduction of the regulations under the Student Assistance Act. I pointed out then that the Scholarship Act 1969, which was an Act of Parliament introduced by the previous Government, was not proclaimed because of the absence of regulations. No regulations had been made from 1969 until the previous Government went out of office. A heavy legislative program during the period immediately following the passing of the Act in 1969 prevented for some time the allocation of an experienced draftsman to the task. Drafting of the regulations was nearly completed when apparently it became obvious that new legislation would be required and therefore action in that regard was suspended. I am advised now by the Department that much of the work already done can, however, be used as the basis for regulations under the new Act and that it is expected that that Act will be proclaimed to commence by the end of January 1974. As a person who has children who, as students, are affected by legislation of this nature, I can appreciate some concern on the part of the Opposition about this legislation. But all I can do is give the assurance that the Department is working on the production of these regulations and that it is expected that they will be proclaimed by the end of January next.

In any event, a tremendous amount of publicity certainly has been given to the tertiary allowances scheme. Just let me give some illustrations of what has been done. First of all, in May an outline of the scheme was released by way of ministerial Press release by the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley. Copies of the outline were sent to educational organisations throughout Australia, the Directors-General of Education and the heads of all tertiary institutions. Copies were distributed to interested persons by regional offices and copies were sent to all Commonwealth departments. In June and July the Minister mentioned details of the scheme on various public occasions and was reported in daily and student newspapers. Letters were sent, so I am informed, to all school principals advising them of the brief details of the scheme and that applications could be lodged in September and October of this year.

Then in August, at the time of the introduction of the Budget, final details of the scheme were announced in Parliament by the Minister and incorporated in Hansard following the presentation of the Budget. Of course, details likewise were announced in the Press. Further outlines of the scheme were distributed to interested persons by regional offices. Then in September and October a pro forma note about the scheme was distributed through the schools to the parents of every final year secondary pupil.

Senator Wright - Mentioning the amounts of scholarships and allowances?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In response to the query of the honourable senator, I have had handed to me a copy of the booklet entitled: 'Tertiary Allowances Scheme 1974: Information for Applicants'. The booklet states by way of a footnote:

This booklet is a brief guide only. If you have doubt about any conditions under which assistance is granted you should contact the nearest Office of the Australian Department of Education. Addresses are listed at the end of the booklet.

On page 7 of the publication benefits are set out as follows:

Assistance under the Tertiary Allowances Scheme may include living allowance, incidentals allowance, allowances for a dependent spouse and or child, travelling allowance. AH benefits are available subject to the means test. A student must be eligible for living allowance in order to receive any of the other benefits listed.

Those benefits are set out on pages 7, 8 and 9 of the booklet. So the details were provided. If the honourable senator would like a copy of the publication, I will see that one is made available to him.

Application forms and explanatory booklets were distributed to all final year pupils. All students currently holding scholarships for tertiary study were sent details of the new scheme and the arrangements for next year. Posters were displayed at tertiary institutions. Press advertisements were inserted in major newspapers by regional offices, advising students that forms were available. I am told that the latest development is that some regional offices are to run further Press advertisements urging students to lodge their applications at the earliest possible time. For instance, I have before me copies of a couple of the advertisements that were inserted in various newspapers. One was inserted in the Sydney Morning Herald' of 20 October of this year and, by way of illustration, another one headed 'Australian Government Tertiary Allowance Scheme' was distributed throughout the news media. So, all has been done to give as much publicity to the scheme as is humanly possible.

Senator Wrightreferred to clause 5 of the Bill and made some comment about the term 'permanent resident of Australia'. He mentioned that the definition states:

Permanent resident of Australia' means a person included in a class of persons that, under the regulations, is to be treated, for the purposes of this Act, as a class of person permanently resident in Australia.

But I point out to the honourable senator that clauses 7, 10 and 14 of the Bill provide that recipients of assistance must be Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. The definition allows for further definition in regulations of 'permanent resident of Australia'. The intention is not to exclude migrants from assistance but to exclude persons holding temporary entry permits.

I think the honourable senator then referred to clause 9 of the Bill and wanted to know whether it provided for the termination of the Commonwealth secondary scholarships. I am advised that this clause provides for the continuation of benefits to persons already holding secondary scholarships. Most of the existing scholarships continuing into 1974 will be Commonwealth senior secondary scholarships awarded in 1973. No difficulty arises in connection with them because no change in benefits is planned for 1974. The only difference will be the change of namethat is, the word 'Commonwealth' will be omitted. However, there will be a few studentsabout 100- who won Commonwealth secondary scholarships in 1971 or 1972 and who, because of interruption of their studies, will still be at school in 1974. The benefits they previously received from their scholarships consisted of a living allowance of $200 per annum without means test, a text book and equipment allowance of $50 per annum, and up to $150 per annum reimbursement of fees. Clause 9 (3) of the Bill provides that in 1 974 they will receive assistance called senior secondary scholarships but carrying the same benefits as the former Commonwealth secondary scholarships.

Senator Wright asked me some questions about the criteria involved. I am told by the departmental officers advising me that the criteria for selection in the case of senior secondary scholarships are, firstly, merit based on examination and school assessment and, secondly, for part of the benefits, a need based on a means test. The age limit is 18 years. In the case of the tertiary education assistance scheme, the test is a need based on a means test, and there is no age limit. In the case of post-graduate awards, the test is one of merit based on performance in the first degree, as judged by the university. I sincerely trust that in this reply to the second reading debate I have answered all of the questions that have been raised by honourable senators opposite.

I do not wish to comment on the matters that were raised by Senator McManus, except to say that, having had one of my own children go through university, having another at university and having another about to go to university, I think that this country has every reason to be proud of the standard of its youth. This Government believes in the general principle of equality of opportunity for everyone. We say that the son or daughter of every Australian worker is entitled to a place in a university. If anything has been wrong with the standard of education in Australia up to the present it has been, as I understand it, that the parents of about 80 per cent of all students are in the upper income and middle income brackets. We believe that this should be extended and that greater opportunity should be given to the children of the working class of this community.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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