Page 2105 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005
national average of 14.1 per cent. We currently have the highest proportion of young people of all states and territories.
We are concerned about the potential loss of campus services such as advice and advocacy, welfare and legal services. We are also concerned about losing student unions, which provide an important democratic voice representing tertiary students. We have recently seen the importance of student associations in lobbying against increased HECS fees. Like Mr Gentleman, this morning I read in the Canberra Times that the Canberra University is considering increasing these fees.
ACT student associations have been involved in this fight and have also been active in providing advocacy and support for international students. I believe that Canberra students experience specific costs due to their location in Canberra. While a number of our students are home grown, a lot come to Canberra for their university education, both from regional areas and across the country, more so as our universities are recognised as being very high quality institutions. But they also come from overseas.
I myself have seen the isolation and the impact this has on students where there are not services to integrate them into the student community. I have observed that the student population from elsewhere does feel isolated from the rest of the Canberra community. I was recently at an event at a college where I asked students how many read the Canberra Times or listened to Canberra media and not a single hand went up. What we have here is a group of people who, while they live here, are not engaged in our community. I think that that is actually a little different from students in towns like Sydney and Melbourne and it is perhaps something that we could think about in this place.
They also have a problem of a lack of affordable accommodation. They have a problem of sparse and often difficult to understand public transport and road systems and, as a result of the smaller universities in our town, a lack of the diverse choices that are available to students in larger universities.
We do know that practically all students, unless they come from particularly wealthy families, which is probably going to be increasingly the case under this regime, need to supplement their Austudy with work. I have seen for myself as a teacher the detrimental impact that this has on their studies. Most of them are involved in the hospitality industry, which works around their university timetable, but often involves very late nights. Those are the times when most students who have got the opportunity are writing their essays. So guess who is doing really well at university these days? The people who do not need to have jobs, and that is a very small bunch.
An attack on student associations will also threaten jobs. The student association and student union at the ANU employ around 140 people and the student association and the student union at the University of Canberra employ around 120 people. Many of these jobs provide much needed employment opportunities for students and young people undertaking vocational training. You can be sure that the Greens will do whatever we can to support local student unions and other groups opposed to the proposed Commonwealth legislation.
MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Gentleman): The discussion is concluded.