Doorstop interview, Parliament House

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PARLIAMENT HOUSE DOORS
TUESDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2014

SUBJECT: The Abbott Government’s unfair changes to higher education.

KIM CARR:  Today the Senate will receive the Higher Education Committee Report into the Government’s very, very flawed Higher Education bill. And today we have heard from Mr Clive Palmer that PUP senators will not be voting for this legislation.

This is a bill that is rotten to the core. This is a bill that the Australian people did not vote for. The Australian people were lied to before the last election. This is a bill that should be withdrawn. The Government should go back to the drawing board and should deal directly with the issues facing higher education.

The question of inadequate funding, of the crisis in funding, is a direct result of the Government’s decision to take 20 per cent of funding away from students. The decisions the Government has made are what’s causing the difficulties in the university system, and it is up to the Government to come up with a policy decision that’s consistent with what they told the Australian people prior to the last election.

Labor will work strenuously to defeat this legislation. It is wrong, it is unjust and it will fundamentally cripple Australian students, young Australians who are seeking to form families with massive debt levels, with $100,000 degrees, and with the prospect that the numbers of students in a whole lot of areas will drop off quite dramatically because they simply won’t be able to afford the extraordinary cost that this Government is imposing on Australian families.

JOURNALIST: There are reports that Mr Pyne would be prepared to negotiate with the crossbenchers to reduce the cuts. Would you be prepared to consider some sort of middle ground?

CARR: I am opposed to funding cuts for higher education. I would have expected the vice-chancellors of this country, through their organisation Universities Australia, to demand that the Government fulfill its responsibilities to fund universities properly.

What we are seeing is the Government suggesting that if we only reduce the funding by 15 per cent that should be satisfactory. No it is not, Mr Pyne, it is not satisfactory! You promised no cuts to higher education. We expect this Government to honour its election commitments. We will not be supporting cuts to higher education. We will not be supporting increasing fees for students. We will not be supporting the deregulation of the university system. We will not be supporting legislation that would seriously disadvantage rural and regional communities, and would seriously disadvantage people from poorer backgrounds who have got a right to expect that if they’ve got the brains, if they work hard, then they can get a quality education in this country. These are the fundamental principles of the Australian fair go, and they’re taking that away from the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t want more university scholarships?

CARR: No, the scholarship is a device. A device so the Group of Eight can recruit bright students from rural and regional parts of Australia. This is a program that the Government said had no losers. Yet it’s now requiring that scholarships be provided to the losers from poorer backgrounds. They’re also suggesting that they should provide a structural adjustment fund for rural and regional areas. Again, this is a government that said there would be no losers. Yet they need these compensation measures to help poorer students in rural and regional universities. The Government has been lying from the beginning about this package.

The universities in Australia are some of the best in the world. We’ve got to ensure that they stay that way, and that is why the Labor Party will do all within its power to stop these measures that will do irreparable damage to our university system and to the way of life in this country.

JOURNALIST: What will middle-class students now have to pay to fund the scholarships?

CARR: They’ll have to pay for the Budget cuts: a minimum of 30 per cent increase. They’ll have to pay for the increased scholarships. They’ll have to pay for the increases to fund research. All in all, that’s why you’ll find university degrees of over $100,000, and that will mean massive debts, and for some school teachers they could be up to 26 years in debt This is at the same time that they’re trying to get the money together to buy a house, raise a family and get on with their lives. It’s simply unfair, and Mr Pyne should withdraw this bill and go back to scratch.


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