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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (2.25 a.m.) —I want to go a bit beyond the scope of the Higher Education Funding Amendment Bill 2002 but stay within the tertiary education area, particularly in regard to the arrangements for agricultural education not only across Australia but also in New South Wales.

I refer to the University of Western Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of New England, Sydney University and other universities. (Quorum formed) I want to advance a cause for excellence and quality in agricultural research and education in New South Wales and across Australia. For too long, Australia has lived on the results of the last 20 or 30 years of research in agriculture. We need to bring together in places of excellence the great scientists and teachers in tertiary education, consolidate their expertise in Sydney University and the University of Western Sydney and build what could be called an institute or university of agricultural excellence which incorporates many programs that are currently dissipated in small groups around New South Wales and unfortunately are incapable of achieving the results that their leaders would like to see.

Why can't they do that? They lack resources and they lack the capacity that is generated by critical mass and by working together. If we were to do this in New South Wales, we would start to break new ground in so many areas where agriculture needs to hold its pre-eminent position as one of Australia's most important exporting industries—and to hold that position against all odds and world competition.

Australia has had the reputation of being a producer of unprotected goods, and of being agriculturally clean and green. We have a great built-up and pent-up demand for our goods on the world market. How are we to keep that going? We cannot keep that going unless we are investing in an appropriate way in research and development. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Education, Science and Training is here listening with great attention to this speech. I have tried to get the attention of previous education ministers on this subject; fortuitously, tonight, I have a great opportunity and I thank him for being here.

If we can consolidate our education and research, we will not only improve the quality and extent of our research but we will punch above our level of input. There are 27 institutions in Australia dealing with agricultural research and education. That is far too many. In many cases, they are small groups trying to provide a service because the institution feels that they have got to supply a comprehensive service to all their clients in their catchment area. I do not necessarily believe that that is the right solution. I would rather go for high quality and excellence, and a comprehensive program of research and teaching at a very high level. We ought to be looking at the whole concept of `paddock to plate.' We ought to be looking at agricultural engineering and agricultural economics. We ought to be looking at the processes of marketing and agricultural accounting. We should be looking not only at the traditional agricultural topics but also at a wide range of topics so we cover the area for our agriculturalists whether they eventually work in banks, as financial advisers, product providers or supervisors in service industries or whether they are out on the farms or working in food technology. We are producing the best teachers and the best scientists in Australia.

We should consolidate the institutions in New South Wales by closing some elements of the University of New South Wales. In addition, parts of the University of Sydney can no longer operate on the Broadway campus and the university needs to rationalise its campus in the Campbelltown area. The high-tech and intensive teaching programs in Broadway should be consolidated and there should be some sort of mutual recognition with the University of Western Sydney based on Hawkesbury College. We should also consider the Orange campus and, further out, the Trangie campus. You will then have a difference in climate and agricultural conditions and an opportunity to provide a comprehensive program for trainees and for the clientele. You would be able to run everything from intensive agriculture—horticulture—which has great export prospects, right through to broadacre farming and broadacre pastoral pursuits.

There is a great opportunity for the government and, particularly, the government of New South Wales, to make a commitment to this process. I have spoken to ministers in the New South Wales government on this issue—and I will not deny that John Aquilina has been a good friend of mine over many years.

Mr Slipper —Come on!

Mr CADMAN —I know that John Aquilina, at times, from our point of view, is misguided, but he is a pretty decent bloke despite all that. John Aquilina and David Kemp both wanted to move together on this issue, but the intervening elections made it very difficult for federal and state ministers to go up against the academics. I would tell my colleagues, `If you want to get into the political event of the century, try fiddling around with the role of academics and changing what they do!' The intensity of politics in that area is just unbelievable. They are so protective of their turf and so conservative: they do not like change and they do not want to do anything that is different. Compared with the arena that we operate in—and I know my colleague from Macquarie understands this very well indeed—they are so reluctant to change, advance or improve. It will be a very adventurous, or in the words of Sir Humphrey, a `courageous' minister who will take steps in this area.

In this process of change that I am advocating, I have had great support from the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University. That man is a gifted educator and has a great opportunity, and it is a pity that his senate is so polluted with corrupt political activities and has been so destroyed in its membership by the activities of the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I was enjoying parts of the speech by the honourable member for Mitchell, but he has strayed a long, long way from the Higher Education Funding Amendment Bill 2002, and I would ask you to bring him back to some sort of relevance to the bill.

The SPEAKER —I was listening closely to the member for Mitchell's comments. I wondered when I heard him mention `senate', but I realise he was talking about the senate of the University of Sydney. It was in that context that I felt he was relevant. I would, however, ask him to come back to the matter of education as outlined in the bill.

Mr CADMAN —I acknowledge the comments from the member for Werriwa and I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later time.

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 27th June 2002
Release Date: 2 Jul 2002


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