Page 2404 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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University of Canberra and the ANU have a reliance on overseas students in order to remain viable and to make ends meet.

The direct effect of last year’s increase was a 90 per cent drop of applications by prospective students to study at the University of Canberra. This is because the university simply could not compete with other universities, which resisted the opportunity to hit students with increased fees. According to a media release put out by UCSA—and I quote Jennifer Newman, president of that organisation:

This increase will make UC one of the most expensive universities in the country and comes less than 48 hours after UC announced that it would close three more courses, due to lack of interest from prospective students.

“Lack of interest” or inability to pay? I ask the question.

Another issue I wish to address is the level of consultation undertaken before coming to this decision. It seems that the decision to further hike tuition fees was made without thought for the university’s community. I would like to quote Ms Jennifer Newman again:

Making the decision on the run is not acceptable, there should be open debate about the effects this will have on students and on the university.

This is yet another example of the result of the federal government’s attempt to reinforce the class divide through its policy decisions. Far too many times since 1996 the direct beneficiaries of federal legislation have been the more affluent amongst us, while the battlers in the middle class of Australian society have been left out in the cold.

I cannot sit by as an elected public officeholder and watch Mr Howard, time and time again, knock hard-working Canberrans. And we all know how much he loves to knock Canberra in any case. As long as I am in this place, I will stand up for my constituents. I join with the students and the staff of the University of Canberra in expressing my opposition to this decision to increase HECS fees to students.

Maternity services

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (6.19): Mr Speaker, it is with some sadness that I rise this evening to bring a matter of some seriousness before the house. I have been contacted today, as I think other members may have been, by the ACT Maternity Coalition.

Mr Speaker, you may recall, in the Fifth Assembly, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Health. We drew up a report in terms of maternity services in the ACT—a report that the minister would be well aware of. It was subtitled A pregnant pause. This report was tabled in May 2004. It is with some sadness that I note that the government response had not been tabled on 17 March 2005, when the Minister for Health said:

Mr Speaker, it is the convention that governments normally respond within three months of a report being handed down.

However, this did not seem to be forthcoming from the minister, and we are still waiting for a response. I asked that question of the minister on 17 March 2005. I made a public

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