Thursday, 19 March 2009
Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities, and Other Measures) Bill 2009
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will be sure to do that. I would like to address some comments through the chair about external students, because there have also been some arguments put about the impact on external and part-time students. I want to make it very clear that if universities opt to implement this fee then they will be able to charge some groups of students less than the maximum. In fact, this is clearly the case for external students—where there is a clear expectation that if universities choose to implement a fee then they will implement sensible arrangements for part-time students and for external students.
The guidelines will specify the purposes for which the fee can and cannot be used. Universities will only be allowed to provide amounts raised through the student services and amenities fee to organisations for the provision of services specifically outlined in the fee guidelines. These include such radical things as: child care, health and welfare support services, and sport and recreation. These are things that we believe are very important on our university campuses. Despite the wild claims from the opposition, they do not include political campaigns or broader political activity and nor do they even include student representation.
The money will not be able to be spent on boozy pub crawls like those the member for Fadden spoke about so fondly in his speech. I would like to again stress that this fee will be collected by higher education providers, not by student organisations. So while members opposite are engaging in the debate of the past about student organisation control of these funds, under this initiative they will be controlled by higher education providers. I say to all members: if passage of this bill is delayed, essential student services will continue to decline and the student experience will be further diminished. The losers in those circumstances will be not just our universities but also students, and particularly those students from regional areas or attending regional universities who depend on the availability of services to help them make the transition to university life.
The provision of services and amenities on our university campuses is a key part of Australia having a world-leading higher education system and the new arrangements need to be available as soon as possible. This bill is not about the past; it is not about student politics in the 1970s; it is not about returning to the former system—it is about establishing a sensible, reasonable and rational new way forward. It is about the universities which will play a key role in our future. I urge members to support this bill, even if that means swallowing their pride and admitting the obvious truth that the Howard government’s legislation went far too far, just as everybody said it was going to. I commend this bill to the House.
That this bill be now read a second time.