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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (16 August) . . Page.. 2243..

MR BARR: As I indicated in my answer to Dr Foskey's first question, the government's commitment is only to a one-off capital injection up to $8 million. No recurrent funding will be provided towards the operation of the dragway.

Education-merger of tertiary institutions

MR SMYTH: My question is to the minister for education. There have been reports of a proposal to merge the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. What consultations have taken place with and between the two education institutions about the proposed merger? How firm is the proposal to merge these two education institutions?

MR BARR: I announced at the Labor Party conference that I would be establishing a committee with representatives of both the University of Canberra and the CIT to examine a closer working relationship between the two institutions. I thank Mr Smyth for raising this issue because it does give me the opportunity to inform the Assembly that this morning I was able to announce that Dr Colin Adrian would be the new chief executive of the CIT. I congratulate Dr Adrian on his appointment. I look forward to working with him. He will bring considerable experience in both public administration and education to that role. I think that it is a tremendous appointment. It is something that I was very pleased to be able to announce this morning.

I am looking forward to working with Dr Adrian, the CIT and the University of Canberra on exploring a closer working relationship between the two organisations. Talk of a merger at this stage is, I think, premature. It is certainly an option. There are working models around the country-RMIT, UTS in Sydney-where such amalgamations have occurred. It is an open question and something that I am looking forward to being explored over the next six months or so.

MR SMYTH: I have a supplementary question. Minister, why was this proposal not announced as part of the 2006 budget? Was it not announced to avoid the scrutiny of the estimates committee?

MR BARR: I thank Mr Smyth for another penetrating question. The issue really goes to there being no funding at all associated with this investigation of a closer working relationship. We are simply seeking to build further on the strong partnership that already occurs, that is already there, between those two institutions. As I said, I have an open mind on the prospect of a merger. It is certainly something that I am interested in exploring. It is something that we need to consider over a period and something in which I would welcome again the engagement of members who are interested in pursuing the prospect of a closer working relationship between the two institutions.

That is an area in which I think we can seek to strengthen the relationships and pathways between the two. There are already pathways there, but we can seek to strengthen and broaden those. If that does lead us down the path of a merger following a period of consideration of those issues, I have an open mind. I am not afraid of reform in education. I believe that it is important that we look forward and that, just because a certain set of arrangements may have worked in the past, we do not have a closed mind

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