Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - I support the principle of the bill. I particularly thank the students for the many briefings we had this morning. I thought they performed extremely well. They were competent, as was said by the member for Murchison, and it is not an easy thing coming before the members of any House delivering new comments. I also thank the university for the briefing as well; it was certainly interesting.
One thing I found from looking at this bill is the differentiation between being a representative and actually on the council. I will read part of an email that I received - and I am sure most members did - from chancellor Damien Bugg which clears it up a little bit. The chancellor says:
It is not correct to say that the Council is a mixture of representative and corporate governance models and many [of the] concerns are by the council being referred to as a 'representative' model.
If people appointed to the governing body of a significant entity, such as the University of Tasmania, feel that they 'represent' a constituency then they clearly are at risk of bringing a conflict of interest to the table, particularly if their sense of representation involves a constituency within the university community.
What the council must have, and every new member of Council receives a briefing from [the chancellor] about this, is a membership which is first and foremost representing the council in the best interests of the University and the Tasmanian communities. To do otherwise … would be contrary to the council member's duty to Council and the University and contrary to the provisions of the University of Tasmania Act …
We expect every member of council to bring to the meetings and work of Council those skills and experiences that have been identified as necessary for the balanced understanding the Council must have of the affairs of the University the functioning of a large and complex business (an annual turnover of more than $500 million and staff of more than 2 400 with students in Tasmania, mainland Australia and overseas numbering in excess of 25 000)
And I know we were told today that was around 27 000.
The resolution of the University Council to recommend to Government that the size of Council be reduced and make up changed, as reflected in this Bill, was unanimous and that Council consisted of two student members (not representatives ...
And this is the issue that I find is probably the one challenging part, but we keep seeing those representatives and this morning I was thinking that we have two students and we have 27 000 students and that seems a fair balance but when you look at the makeup of the council, are they representing or is it a council with the skills mix? That is where the challenge comes. As I have asked other members, do you have people representing there or do you have your skills mix which is identified as part of the council?
Some of the key factors which all of the council considered were -
1. A Council of 18 is too large to meet easily and frequently, particularly as we are the only University in the State and the Council should meet in all regions.
I agree with that and I heard the member for Windermere saying he thought that the divide between Launceston and Hobart had been removed. I do not know that there has ever been a real divide; we are one Tasmania; it is the University of Tasmania and it is really important that we do not try to continue that divide. We have wonderful schools in Launceston, the Cradle Coast and the Maritime College. There are five different campuses and we should all be working together as one.
2: We want to meet at least monthly, not the 7 times a year we have met previously (3 meetings in the South and North and one in the North West).
3. A majority of members must be external because of the demand for commercial, corporate and other specific skill sets not readily available within the university community.
4. The key committees of Council, from the very nature of their work, ought not have staff members or students on them. Remuneration Committee, Finance Committee and Ceremonial and Honorary Degree committees for example. This increases the workload of non University Council members.
5. The skill sets we need on Council are, importantly, across a broad range, including the internal issues of the University. The demands for specific skill sets will change with time, hence the recommendation for flexibility in the maximum number of Councillors.
6. With the Council able to meet more frequently some meetings will be devoted exclusively to high level strategic deliberation and other meetings will be able to accommodate joint meetings of Council and Academic Senate Standing Committee for the specific exercise of the advisory role of Senate in a more direct and effective way. This would be the first time in the history of this university that such meetings have occurred.
7. The more frequent meetings will enable Council to rapidly respond to changing circumstances to assist the senior management of the University in achieving the lofty goals the Council has set for the University in those key areas … [of] Research and Teaching and Learning.
Those comments aside, from the briefings this morning and also looking at many figures, we had Jo Archer present to us at Launceston City Council recently and she brought with her a lot of figures of numbers of students and teachers and it was interesting to see how well our university stacks up.
You hear all the time people saying 'punching above our weight' and it becomes a rather well worn phrase but in this case we can use it proudly. Tasmania does punch above its weight and when you look at the number of overseas and international onshore students that we have it is an incredible number.
The mission of the University of Tasmania is to continue its -
long tradition of excellence and commitment to free inquiry in the creation, preservation, communication and application of knowledge, and to scholarship that is global in scope, distinctive in its specialisations and that reflects our Tasmanian character. The University will provide leadership within its community, thereby contributing to the cultural, economic and social development of Tasmania.
That is important. I have never looked into this university and this council before. I have had many briefings on the university, as many of us have, and we have been to a variety of different functions and seen the School of Architecture. We have all had different tours of many of the different faculties and campuses. When you look into the real workings, the real nuts and bolts of this council, it makes you start to think. I was looking at representation but now I am not so sure; I think I was probably on the wrong tangent.
I will listen to the debate when we get into committee regarding some of the amendments that we have and whether one member from the student body is adequate or there should be two, bearing in mind that there already are postgraduate ex-students on this council. It is an interesting one. I support the principle of the bill but I will be looking forward to further discussion in committee as to the recommendations and the amendments.