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Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP Address at the Opening of the Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine Building, Bond University, Friday 21 April 2006

Thank you very much Chancellor, he’s also a Guardian, a Chancellor and a Guardian of the Nation’s Future Fund. It’s a fancy title for a Director. I think he will guard the assets of the Australian people very wisely.

Vice-Chancellor, Chancellor, my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, the Mayor of the GC, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a particular pleasure for me to be here today, I have visited Bond on one previous occasion, and it’s an opportunity to reaffirm on behalf of the Government, our ongoing commitment to a pluralistic approach to higher education in this country.

There is a place for universities like Bond, a growing place, a place of innovation and difference, which brings a new dimension to tertiary education in this country.

The world in which we live requires that Australia not return to a stereotypical approach to higher education. We will always need to have a generous government provision, and in case anyone is in any doubt about that, something in the order of 72% of the cost of the standard government funded places in universities around Australia continues to be borne by the government. Although there is a contribution through the HECS scheme, a very defensible contribution, a very sensible contribution, nonetheless the government has an ongoing responsibility.

But we shouldn’t administer that responsibility in a blinkered way, we shouldn’t try and turn back the clock. We should not oppose full-fee paying places in Australian universities, be they in private universities or the public sector. We should welcome as we continue to do thousands, indeed tens of thousands students from overseas.

And the future of Australia as a centre of excellence and a hub of educational achievements, the future of Australia is very bright indeed if we continue to have this very pluralistic approach to education. So I wanted to say at the outset that I am philosophically a very strong support of the Bond University, as I am of the other two private universities in Australia. There is a place for both the traditional public universities, if I can call them that, and also for private universities.

And just as we have been enhanced as a community by extending the freedom of choice for primary and secondary education, so will we be enhanced as a community if we expand the freedom of choice for tertiary education.

Institutions such as Bond enable innovation, experimentation. They bring forward new horizons that are not always available, but I don’t say that critically, I just say that advisedly, within the traditional universities.

Today is an occasion of course to honour the contributions of many people who have worked hard for this day. Donations of more than $1million have been received from local medical practitioners towards the cost of this centre, and I especially want to acknowledge the contribution of Dr Darryl Gregor and Dr Peter Heiner and their families towards the cost of the building. And I also want to acknowledge the great contribution of Professor David Weedon and Pat Corrigan. Both of whom have been dedicated to the establishment of this faculty.

I am of course delighted on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to announce that we will be contributing $4.5million towards Bond University’s costs for constructing this building and this faculty. And that, as we know, will match a similar amount that has been contributed by the Queensland Government and I acknowledge the generosity and support of the Queensland Government.

And although occasionally there is static between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government regarding medical matters, and far be in from me in the state of Queensland to raise issues of public health. Let me simply say this, that it is important that both levels of government work together.

You develop over a period of time, some very profound convictions, about changed attitudes in the community towards their governments, and I find in the Australian community a growing impatience at needless disputation between different levels of government. I find that as I go around this country a common refrain from my fellow Australians, and that is simply this - “We don’t care who’s responsible for it, as long as it gets done, and gets done properly. And you’re the Prime Minister, why don’t you fix it”.

Well I’ve come here today not to try to pretend that I’m fixing everything to do with medical education in this country, but the new building the school of Health Sciences and Medicine that I am honoured to open today will make a huge contribution to meeting the medical workforce needs of the fastest growing area in Australia.

It will provide an environment for the training of medical professions which frankly, from what I’ve been told, will be unrivalled anywhere in Australia. It will fulfil the goal I think Trevor described very well, that being international in outlook but Australian in character. This is an Australian institution and proudly so, and I hope it always sees its mission as founded on an Australian context, for the instruction of men and women who come to this university.

So I have very great pleasure ladies and gentlemen, in declaring this building open. I want to pay tribute to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Stable, to his Faculties. Trevor, I’ve known for a very long period of time, he’s given an enormous to this country - in business, in financial leadership, and I know how close to his heart Bond University is. He is a zealot for this university, he is a constant lobbyist for this university, and they’re the sorts of Chancellors that you really need. And I do take this opportunity of paying tribute.

And can I also record the very great interest of the two Federal members for the Gold Coast, Margaret May who unfortunately can’t be here today as she is overseas on business, and Steven Ciobo. Both of them have displayed a constant interest, Steven of course, is an alumnus of the University, and he therefore brings a special understanding of what this university has meant to his life and to the lives of other people who pass through it.

So it’s a great day, it’s always a great day to be in Queensland of course. But very importantly, it’s a great day for medical education and the cause of a progressive forward-looking, pluralistic approach to tertiary education in this country, of which Bond University is a great exemplar, and in that spirit I have great pleasure in declaring this building open. Thank you.

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