Most universities in Australia are 100% state government owned. They are established under state legislation, like Swinburne University. And Swinburne has a campus in Lilydale in Victoria that it has closed down and is looking to sell. A local group wants the State government to take over the campus for a ‘nominal price’ of $1. The state government response, as stated in the Australian, is:
However a spokeswoman for minister Hall said the government could not compulsorily acquire the site.
I agree. The state government cannot compulsorily acquire the site – because they already own it. It ‘belongs’ to Swinburne only because the state government allows it to ‘belong’ to Swinburne. Indeed, this is obvious in the next bit reported in the Australia.
“Any government body cannot sell a site to a training provider at less than its market value, therefore it’s impossible for the Victorian government to simply acquire Lilydale as suggested in this letter,” she said.
Yes – any government body, like Swinburne, has to dispose of assets in a clear and fair manner. But this does not make it ‘impossible’ for the Victorian government to acquire the site for $1. Indeed, they can acquire it for $0. It is an internal transfer within the state government, not an external sale.
Now there may be incentive reasons why the state government does not want o take over the campus.
Mr Dempster warned that if governments were able to compulsorily acquire campuses it would discourage universities and TAFEs from investing in regional and outer metropolitan areas.
And there may be political reasons. For example, the campus may not be viable and the last thing the state government would want is to try and keep an unviable campus operating in a sensitive outer suburban electorate. . But to say that the state government can’t legally take control of the campus! Yes minister, pull the other one!