Thursday 18th October 2012
Hansard of the Legislative Council
UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA AMENDMENT BILL 2012 (No. 32)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I must say that I appreciated the briefing
this morning. There were nearly three hours of briefings, but most of my speech
had been prepared overnight between 1.15 a.m. and 4 a.m. this morning. If I
doze off at the lectern you will understand.
Mr Hall - Did you change it at all?
Mr FINCH - We had such a rich vein of information from the student
representatives and Sir James Walker in particular who led the charge, and from
Chancellor Damien Bugg. I gleaned a lot more information that I would have
liked to have worked into the speech but I am trusting that others will bring
that information out and we can discuss that more fully, and particularly some
aspects of concern about the bill.
I have a number of concerns about this University of Tasmania
bill and I had better stress at the outset that this is a bill concerning the University of Tasmania
and not the university
of Hobart. While I abhor
Tasmania's perpetual regional rivalries and parochial arguments we must
recognise that the university does have three campuses - Hobart, Launceston and
the Cradle Coast campus at Burnie - well, five as we heard this morning, there
were a couple of new additions - but certainly there are those regions that
generally spark the parochial debate.
We must not forget history. We must not
forget how the university was formed as a statewide institute when the
Launceston Tasmanian State Institute of Technology became the Launceston campus
of the university. That campus now has the school of performing arts, the
school of architecture, health science with its important nurse training role,
the faculty of education and the Australian
- all vibrant centres of education. It also has a high proportion of the
university's overseas students.
The Cradle Coast Campus is a vital
centre of higher education for the north-west coast. It is the only centre but,
is often left off the map. I am sure, Madam President, that you and the
honourable members of Windermere, Mersey, Murchison, Launceston, Western Tiers
and Apsley support a fair representation for our tertiary education in that
northern, wider half of the state.
While we are on the subject of
representation and that fairness, let us look at the present university board
and administration. We know that the majority of university students throughout
and probably most of the world are now female. I cannot prove it, I do not have
the exact figures, but I know that I have made a speech here in parliament - it
would have been maybe 18 months or two years ago - in respect
of the numbers of female students at the university who outnumbered the male
students at that stage.
There is evidence that more than half
of the UTAS staff are female and that the female student component is
increasing every year. We might very well ask how is this represented in the
current UTAS council? Poorly, I might say. Only four of the 18 council members are women and the term of
three of them expires in December. We just need to see if the numbers change
with the passing of this bill; where those numbers sit. In the briefing we
talked about it being merit based, but I also get a sense of gender equity
where possible that we have to strive for in our community. The debate has been
hot and strong of recent times.
If I go back over my notes here to the
speeches that were made in 1992 in parliament, there was a reference then by
Christine Milne to what about gender equity in respect of the formation of the
new council for the university at that time. It does not seem that we have
travelled very far.
One woman in an important role, but not
on the council, is the Pro Vice Chancellor for Regional Development, Janelle
Allison, and I will refer to her again shortly. A large part of the
university's students and income comes from overseas students and I suggest
that there is not a single non-Anglo on the university board. The UTAS board in
its present form is not properly representative of students and staff, and its
composition therefore I do not believe can lead to those balanced decisions
that you would like to see come from the council.
Janelle Allison is tasked with
developing the two northern campuses. I certainly do not envy her job. She is
seconded to the job and her role is not permanent. May I suggest that unless
more effort is put into promoting the north-west and northern campuses,
would-be students in northern Tasmania
will turn to remote courses with Victorian universities. They are doing some of
those courses now. They are doing remote courses to Hobart
now and some of those students are going to look further afield and look to the
big universities in Victoria
that might provide them with those opportunities.
This bill is part of the wider
restructuring, a restructure that affects staff at the Launceston campus,
particularly in arts. For months they have continued to be uncertain about
their future. As one staff member told me, there is a lot of talk about
consensus and consultation, but in the end they only tell you what they want
you to know. It was interesting that in our briefing this morning there was a
mention of the absence of consultation. As members would know, I bang on about
it all the time, that people say, 'Yes, we have consulted', and the government,
particularly, say, 'We have done the consultation'. No, sitting around in a
room and talking to the same people about the same issue for a long period of
time is not about consultation with those who are affected by the decisions
that are going to be made.
I am thinking there is a future for me
after parliament; I might become a consulting consultant to find out those ways
to make sure that when you say you have consulted that you have in fact done
what you said you were going to do, to actually consult.
Ms Rattray - I think that is called an auditor.
Mr FINCH - I am setting myself up here as a messenger of some of
these things from the north of the state. There is a history of a perception of
contempt. I know it is a strong word. I have gone back over that to check with
people I have spoken to, to see whether that is too strong a word. They have
In respect of the UTAS campuses outside
of Hobart, when the former member for
Launceston, Don Wing, was the member here, he took the opportunity at the
annual graduation ceremony to tell the Albert Hall audience that only 25 senior
teaching staff were based in Launceston compared with 168 in Hobart. He said it was a problem affecting
the status and research capacity in Launceston.
The Chancellor, Damian Bugg, dropped on
Mr Wing like a ton of bricks, there in front of the students, saying it was not
appropriate for Mr Wing to have raised the issue at a graduation ceremony. I
will point out - and I have had it verified by Mr Bugg - that he did receive
that speech the day before, as Mr Wing thought that was the protocol. He
received no admonition or recognition from Mr Bugg, so he duly proceeded with
that speech. Then, rather than a vote of thanks, he had a vote of rebuke in
front of the students.
Mr Bugg suggested that it was not
appropriate for that speech to be made at what should have been a celebration
for the students, but two wrongs do not make a right.
Madam PRESIDENT - I hope you are leading to the bill that we have in front
Mr FINCH - Yes I am. I think this is the opportunity to talk about
those things that are recurring in respect of this bill. I am going to drive a
very strong point very soon in respect of this bill but my suggestion is that
it is an opportunity for us now to talk about those things that we are hearing
about in our communities.
This is our chance to have our message
heard by the students who are represented here today and also by the
representatives of the university. Certainly with the appointment of the new
Chancellor, Michael Field, northwest born and bred, I trust that he will not
allow that sort of occurrence to be part of those ceremonies again.
Mr Wing did say he was rebuked, that he
had not made contact with the office, he said, between 2006 and 2007. He had
made three written requests and one written and telephone request to the
Chancellor for a meeting with him and two prominent northern Tasmanians to
discuss the issue and no appointment was ever given.
I will move off that subject now but I
want to quote the president and former member for Launceston:
The dismal failure of the leaders, a
majority of members of the university council, to deal appropriately with this
issue has had a serious impact on the academic status of the University of Tasmania
at Launceston making it essential for remedial action to be taken urgently. It
is heartening that immediately after his appointment as Vice Chancellor,
Professor Peter Rathjen has undertaken meaningful discussions and has shown a
commendable preparedness to deal with this serious issue.
I have alluded to the earlier days of
the debate about the establishment of the new university. The debate started in
around 1988. In 1990 the Higher Education Amalgamation Bill was given its
second reading by the then Minister for Education and the Arts, Peter Patmore.
This bill was to amalgamate the University of Tasmania,
the Tasmanian Institute of Technology and the Australian Maritime
College. I want to quote
Mr Patmore from that time:
[TBC - Paper Hansard 1990]
The bill provides for a single body
corporate to be managed by a council established under part 3 of the bill. The
functions of the body corporate are - to advance, transmit and preserve
knowledge and learning; to encourage and undertake research; to promote and
sustain teaching and research to international standards of excellence, to
encourage and provide opportunities for students and staff to develop and apply
their knowledge and skills, to provide educational facilities appropriate to
the function of the body corporate, to provide access to higher education
having regard to principles of merit and equity, and to provide such facilities
as are necessary or convenient for the performance of its functions.
All that would seem to indicate a new
university for all of Tasmania.
Going to the situation in this bill where the University Council will move from
members to 14 members, preferably 12, is my reading, and could come down to 10.
The numbers are quite confusing.
It is called a corporate governance
model and from that second reading speech the national code reflected in these
proposed amendments supports continuing transition from a traditional and large
representative governance model towards a contemporary corporate governance
model. Particularly in relation to insistence on stricter governance and
accountability of the academic quality and engagement and business competencies
of Australian universities.
The University of Tasmania Act
1992 requires the council to provide the minister with an annual report to be
laid before both houses of parliament. The voluntary code of best practice for
the governance of Australian universities requires the universities to disclose
in its annual report its compliance with the code of practice and provide any
reasons for non-compliance. The reasoning for the reduction in size and altered
composition of the council is that it should no longer be the traditional large
body of persons appointed as representatives of particular interest groups.
We have heard about that during the
debate and why are interest groups to be excluded? When I look at the student
representative body, how can students feel that they have a say in how their
very expensive education institute is run? We have already had that talk in our
briefing about an elected student representative. I have suggested, and did not
get an adverse reaction to the fact, that there might be a student from the
north and a student form the south. How do we have them feel better involved in
their university, than if they have a representative?
We talked about having an undergraduate
representative and a post-graduate representative. I would be interested to see
in the discussion that unfolds how others perceive that situation and whether
some opportunity can arise that does accommodate the student representative
body about their representation and the way they see their future involvement
with the university council.
I remember when I was with the ABC, the
board axed the staff elected member - we only had one - at a stroke, and it
alienated the staff and made them feel voiceless. I realise that we are ending
with one but I still feel that there is an opportunity for that number of two
on that board. If you brought it down to 10 maybe only one, if you look at 12
then it becomes nebulous, if we decide on 14 there is more of an opportunity to
have a representation there.
Mr Valentine - Do you want an amendment?
Mr FINCH - I will wait and see how the debate unfolds to see if
there is an amendment. It was confusing to have that situation of the 18 down
to as low as 10, 12 could be a figure but 14 maybe the flexible number. It is a
bit of a moving feast and makes the bill not as definitive as I would have
liked it to be.
My main concern is clause 5, 'Section 4
amended (Continuance and incorporation of University)'. The proposal is to
amend section 4 of the principal act by inserting after subsection (4), the
For the avoidance of doubt, the University is taken to have continued in
existence under the name 'University
of Tasmania' since its
establishment in 1890.
I have sought advice about this wording
and the comment that came back to me, without naming anyone unless I have to,
was that these are ridiculous words to put in a piece of legislation: 'for the
avoidance of doubt'. What is being attempted here is that the new university
created in 1990 is to be no longer. I think bringing forward this proposal is
not a good initiative. Indeed, I think it is not necessary. It gains nothing
for the university except that it creates the opportunity for future trouble
between its component parts. I can only assume that the council of the
university or the Minister for Education were not informed that in allowing the
proposed amendment to enter parliament, they were directly denying the actions
and intents of a predecessor council of the university and a previous parliament.
This proposed amendment represents a
breach of trust. It cannot be and should not be supported by this Legislative
Council. I am going to move an amendment that it be removed from the bill
entirely but also, seeing what unfolds here, it could be referred back to the
minister and to the council of the university for further consideration if that
is the course of action that unfolds. The proposed amendment is an attempt to
rewrite history. If passed, it will come back to haunt the university. I think
it will diminish its stature and it will promote community and academic
frustration in the northern half of the state, which will damage the
credibility of the university council.
I want to go through the historical
background of this. In the late 1980s, higher education in Australia was in a
state of flux as the then Minister for Education, John Dawkins, encouraged
universities and colleges of advanced education to bring forward proposals
regarding their futures. As a consequence, many colleges of advanced education
and institutes of technology became full universities in their own right. Other
universities and colleges entered into discussion, some with goodwill, others
under duress, regarding their futures. The pressure from the federal government
was that bigger is better and more economical and that a good university needs
to have at least 8 000 equivalent full time students if it is to economically
and educationally survive in the brave new technological world. At about that
time, the then University of Tasmania in Hobart
had about 4 800 students, while the Tasmanian State Institute of Technology in
Launceston had an enrolment of over 2 800 and was growing very rapidly.
Combining the two, you do not need to be Einstein to see that the total of about
7 600 came very close to meeting the federal government's criterion. If you add
in the extra 600 of the Australian
then the commonwealth's criterion on numbers was met in full.
The then Deputy Chancellor of the
university council, Peter Cranswick, could count and, with the then university
council's support, he and the then chancellor, Sir Guy Green, approached the
Tasmanian Council of Advanced Education, the governing body of the TSIT, and
proposed that discussions be entered into which would explore how the higher
education needs of Tasmania might be better catered for in this brave new
world. The university approach to the TSIT initially caused some disquiet in
the council of advanced education. To cut a long story short, after some informal
discussions in which the word 'trust' loomed large, the councils of both
institutions agreed to set up a working party to explore, in goodwill and in
depth, how the higher education needs of the people of Tasmania might be best
After long negotiations, the Higher
Education Amalgamation Bill 1990, enabling legislation that preceded the University
of Tasmania Act 1992, which is now up for amendment, was agreed by
parliament. When introducing the second reading of the bill in this House on
behalf of the Government, the honourable member for Newdegate, Mr Ginn, I
believe, said, and I will quote from Hansard:
[TBC Paper Hansard 1992]
Mr President, in no sense does this
bill amount to a takeover of any of the participating institutions. The heads
of agreement documents provides for the formation of a new university for Tasmania under a new act
of state parliament establishing a new governing body and university structure
which includes the vice-chancellor to be appointed by the governing body and
the agreement also provides for transitional agreements.
I repeat, Madam President, it was not a
takeover of the TSIT by the existing university; it was a decision to abolish
the acts governing both councils and both institutions, and will establish a
different university, a new outward-looking statewide university under a new
act. What happened then? To ensure the development of a unified and happy new
university, the council of the new University
of Tasmania appointed a new
vice-chancellor from outside Tasmania,
Professor Alan Gilbert, and his brief was to develop a new statewide university
that would stand the test of time and put aside parochial differences.
Professor Gilbert tried very hard and
was regarded as being very successful. For example, he proposed to the then
university council that the old TSIT be renamed the University of Tasmania
Launceston in order to emphasise the importance
of the old TSIT in the new university, and this is agreed by the council. He
set in motion steps to merge the old TSIT study centres in Devonport and Burnie
into what is now the Cradle
Coast campus in Burnie.
He set up an academic leadership structure in the new university, which shared
responsibilities between staff in the north and the south of the state.
Professor Gilbert publicly recognised
the need for many more senior academic staff at professorial level to be
appointed at the university at Launceston if it was to be a truly
university-type institution. In so doing he was simply accepting that the old
TSIT had not been a research-oriented institution and it had to have
significant numbers of staff at professor and associate professor levels to
initiate and promote the development of post-graduate studies and research.
Further - he did not say this publicly - but he recognised that if the
university in Launceston did not have ample numbers of quality senior staff it
would have difficulty in recruiting ambitious young research-oriented academic
staff and eventually could wither, as it is well known that any academic institution
is only as good as its staff.
It was generally agreed that Professor
Gilbert did an excellent job in bringing the various parts of the new
university together. In fact, it resulted in him being snapped up by the University of Melbourne
and he left Tasmania
to become its vice-chancellor. When he left the atmosphere and the culture
began to change. Under successive vice-chancellors and councils, the university
reverted over time to being a Hobart-dominated institution. There are many
illustrations of this, but the most dramatic manifestation is the reneging on
the appointment of academic staff above the rank of senior lecturer; that is,
professors and associate professors at the University at Launceston. This has
resulted in the development of a renewed higher education binary divide in Tasmania.
That is in essence, there is now a
teaching campus at Launceston, whilst teaching and research is primarily based
in Hobart, although I must point out that I have been encouraged by the
chancellor mentioning in the briefing that there is some research allocation
coming to the northern part of the state or seeking to be provided - I am not
sure of the faculty there - but there were certainly some moves and he did
stress that Daryl Le Grew, as vice-chancellor was constantly promoting the
recruitment of staff to the north of the state. But aligned with this has been
the promotion of student enrolments in Hobart,
at the expense of the rest of the university, as well as the demise of
successful academic courses at Launceston in favour of Hobart. I am going to put up some simple
statistics to illustrate some of these points, Madam President.
Madam PRESIDENT - I hope they relate back to the bill that we have in front
Mr FINCH - It is the point that I am making about clause 5 and it is
relevant to this moment in time, and the attempted changes. The figures show
that in 1993, two years after the merger, there were 87 non-administrative
professors and associate professors based in Hobart; 21 in Launceston and one in
Burnie. In 2009, the numbers of professors and associate professors had nearly
doubled to 168 in Hobart.
There were 25 in Launceston, an increase of four, and five in Burnie, an
increase of four.
Including the AMC in the statistics,
the most recent figures - which are those quoted on the university's website
for 2011 - are 201 Hobart-based professors and associate professors, 41 in
Launceston and seven in Burnie. Putting it another way - as of the year 2011,
there is one professor or associate professor for every four academic staff at
the university in Hobart, whilst there is only one professor or associate
professor for every eight academic staff in the entire northern half of the
university, that is, Launceston and Burnie combined. I have tried to elicit the
latest figures by email to the university, stressing the urgency of getting
those figures by today, but those figures have not been forthcoming and they
are not on the university website.
These statistics clearly show that over
the past 20 years there has been a clear bias toward growth in Hobart, for both students and senior staff.
The new statewide role of the new University
of Tasmania that was
exhibited in the early 1990s now appears to have been well and truly lost and,
today, the final nail in the coffin comes in the form of this proposed
amendment relating to the insertion of this new subsection. In essence, this is
an attempt to rewrite history.
It says that the goodwill, voluntary
merger of 1990 never really took place. The old university took over the TSIT,
rather than amalgamating with it and de facto this provides justification for a
continuation of the bias towards the development of the university in Hobart to the detriment
of the institutions in the northern half of the state. Whilst this may be good
for the university at Hobart, it is not good for
the university as a whole and I do not believe it is good for Tasmania.
I am not happy with the way the bill
has been presented. I will wait to hear what other members have to say and what
they make of some of the issues that I have highlighted and I look forward to
presenting in the committee stage.