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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 981 ..

I thank Dr Foskey for raising in this debate some of the more considerable issues that face the higher education sector across the country. It is clear that there is a need for a national review of higher education. I am very pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister has indicated that such a review will commence. It needs to look at a range of issues, not least of which is the current status of the higher education contribution scheme. There can be no doubt that the scheme, which was introduced by the former Hawke-Keating Labor government, for very sound reasons, was utterly bastardised by the federal Liberal government under successive education ministers Amanda Vanstone, Brendan Nelson, David Kemp and Julie Bishop, to the point where it was completely removed from its original intent and has become a major disincentive for students to undertake higher education. It is clear, across a range of measures, that that has had a detrimental impact.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.19): I will speak briefly on this matter of public importance. I echo some of the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Seselja. As a member for Ginninderra and the former shadow minister for education, I take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Stephen Parker and the current staff and board of the council of the University of Canberra for taking the steps that they have to try and re-establish the University of Canberra as an institution with a stable and long future.

The University of Canberra has a fine reputation for servicing the ACT and region and for serving international students. For a variety of reasons, over the past few years there has been a decline in its standing and its prospects. As the minister has said, Professor Parker is someone who inspires confidence from those who have taken the time to get to know and discuss the issues relating to the University of Canberra.

Mr Mulcahy raises some questions about whether things such as aged care accommodation are poor business for the University of Canberra. These are things that we probably need to look at as a community, but principally this is a matter for the council of the University of Canberra.

A number of things that have come up in this debate and been skirted over should be addressed. For a substantial period of time, about three years ago, it was almost impossible for the University of Canberra council to meet because the government had not appointed sufficient members. Often council meetings were inquorate simply because there were not enough members. This was a failing by ministers of education and the Chief Minister for a number of years. Complaints were made to me as the member for Ginninderra about the fact that from time to time the University of Canberra council could not meet to fulfil its responsibilities because there were not enough people. There has been neglect on the part of the Stanhope government in relation to the University of Canberra.

I noticed a couple of comments made yesterday that make me wonder whether the current minister has either interfered inappropriately at the University of Canberra or wants to big-note himself. On ABC Radio 666 yesterday morning, he seemed to take single-handed responsibility for the appointment of Professor Parker as the vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra last year, and he also did so yesterday in an amendment to Mr Seselja’s motion in relation to the Towards 2020 proposal. It

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