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TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP AT THE AWARDS FOR THE GOOD UNIVERSITIES GUIDE UNIVERSITY OF THE YEAR 2000-2001

Over the past decade the Good Universities Guide has been an important part of providing students with reliable, easily accessible information about the qualities and the courses on offer at the various Universities in Australia. The guide was established in 1991 and Sandra Milligan and Dean Ashenden are both the authors and the founders of the guide which has been published continuously since 1991.

As Steve indicated, the theme for this year’s award is preparing graduates for an e-world, which university best prepares graduates for the new world of information technology. There is almost and I say almost with deliberation, an overload of emphasis on the importance of information technology and the importance of the impact of e-commerce on the commercial life of our country. But I use the world almost advisedly because in reality, given the transforming effect of information technology and the capacity of e-commerce to critically and positively influence Australia’s economic performance, there can never really be too much emphasis on the important component of those things in our daily lives.

Electronic commerce is assisting business and consumers to do any number of things that were undreamt of only a few years ago. I often refer to the remarks of the chairman of the American Federal Reserve, Dr Allan Greenspan. When asked to explain the remarkable economic performance of the United States in recent years, replies to the effect that he doesn’t really know but if he were pushed to have a go at the explanation, he would say the contribution of the investment in technology and information technology in particular has transformed modern economic conditions and the way in which businesses go about their daily operations.

The Australian community of course is very adept when it comes to taking up the applications of new technology and we recognise the advantages of it and are willing to give it a go.

The e-commerce Beyond 2000 report forecasts that rapid adoption of e-commerce by business will add 2.7% to Australia’s GDP by the year 2007 and the government in different ways is supporting developments in this area in providing $158 million under the Building IT Strengths programme, to promote the growth of innovative Australian information and communications technology businesses.

However one of the keys to continuing to keep pace with new information and communications technology is of course in education and training. And education is central to the prosperity of individuals, communities and nations.

Australian universities are playing a leadership role in harnessing the benefits of the e-world. Electronic technology and communication has opened up new research, teaching and education opportunities. One of the prime examples of this and always important in the Australian environment is that of distance education. And Australia’s success in the international market place will increasingly depend of course on the technological skills of its people and the government has recognised this in many ways and in particular has provided $25 million under the science lectureships initiative to attract students to innovative science and technology related courses. And as I remarked yesterday when opening the Discovery project of CSIRO here in Canberra, the government has before it the outcomes of the Innovation Summit and will have before it by the end of the year the final coming together of the analysis of those outcomes and will be responding appropriately to those recommendations.

We are very conscious as a government of the need for university students who live outside the major capital cities as well as those living within the capital cities to share in the opportunities of the information technology era.

The value of course of the Good Universities Guide is that it provides to students and potential students, very necessary data and information about what universities offer. Australian universities now are not only more numerous, but also more complex, more innovative and more flexible organisations than used once to be the case. And it is important that students have available to them something that gives a reliable, accurate and objective guide of what universities have to offer. It’s a document that has certainly been thumbed through on numerous occasions in the Howard household over the last eight or nine years, having had three children in that period of time who have been in various stages of university life and it’s a document I know that is widely appreciated by the student body of Australia and it’s a document that’s made a very, very important contribution to a better understanding of what is on offer.

It is important that Australian universities continue to adapt to social, economic and labor market and educational changes and the award which has been sponsored and supported by the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age over the last nine years is a very important way of recognising the contribution of universities to the national life of our community. And I want on behalf of the government to congratulate the Fairfax organisation and the two newspapers for their continued sponsorship and support of this award.

I think awards that mark excellence and achievement are important, whatever the endeavour is. It’s a valuable, national recognition for people to come, whether it be here to the national parliament, or to some other appropriate gathering place and just in a few moments to recognise achievement and it’s very important that people’s performance and excellence be marked, not just in sporting and cultural and entertainment endeavour, but also when it comes to something so fundamental as education.

So having said all of that ladies and gentlemen and having very warmly commended the Age and the Herald and the authors of the guide, could I announce the joint winners of the 2000-2001 University of the Year are: The University of Wollongong and the University of Southern Queensland. The University of Wollongong is recognised for preparing graduates for the e-world and the University of Southern Queensland is recognised for developing the e-university. Congratulations to both of those universities.

ENDS

See also www.australia.org.nz

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