Page 2403 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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here on Thursday in the MPI and say that I must have been on drugs or, if I had not been, perhaps I should be.

Again during that MPI, Mr Gentleman repeated the assertion that the owners had perhaps got it all wrong—I, too, but of course that does not matter. I was then encouraged by Mr Gentleman to apologise to the owners and the business owners of Calwell shops for having described how bad things have been.

On the Friday visit that I eventually did go to, I spoke to the owners and a number of business owners as well. The ongoing problems indeed were even worse than the briefing that I had received on the Tuesday night. Business has been badly affected, youths are running around inside the shopping centre, on bikes, endangering particularly older people there. Around the back of the shops at night-time a lot of youths are sitting there in the dark—and some of them are as young as 14 or 15—drinking. When the butcher has to work back late at night to prepare orders, he is concerned about going out the back; it is not particularly safe, et cetera, et cetera.

Again, they stress that they do not see police. Police do not come down to that shopping centre to visit the business owners. The butcher has not seen them; the owners have not seen them; the chemist has not seen regular visits by police to see how things are going. Indeed, when I described to the owners and the business owners the pathetic stunt carried out on Thursday, with photographing and then the retelling of the story here on Thursday, they were laughing; they were rolling in the aisles, I must tell you.

I suggest that it is not I that should be apologising to the good burghers of Calwell shops; it is the minister and Mr Gentleman for: a) carrying out a pathetic politician stunt; b) asserting that the business owners are exaggerating the real concerns; and c) doing nothing to sort out the security problems and the graffiti problems at Calwell.

HECS fees

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (6.18): Mr Speaker, I wish to use this opportunity to denounce the increase in the rate of HECS for students at the University of Canberra, as highlighted in the Canberra Times last week. As members would be aware, back in the early stages of 2004, the University of Canberra made the decision to take advantage of the Howard government’s higher education, so-called, reforms to raise their HECS level by 20 per cent. Numerous stakeholders, including community groups, student organisations and other representatives in the education sector condemned this decision at the time.

As Mr Gentleman and others mentioned last week in this chamber, unfortunately the university has recently made the decision to increase fees by the full 25 per cent allowed under the federal government’s legislation. This move puts further financial pressure on Canberra’s student community and contributes to the growing number of debt-ridden students in our society.

As well as this, it further damages the competitiveness of the university on a national as well as on an international level. As was demonstrated, I believe, in the Four Corners program last night on ABC TV and again in the Canberra Times today, both the

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