The simplest solution to universities’ budget concerns is for the Abbott Government to immediately drop its pigheaded plan to strip universities of 20 per cent of their funding.
Christopher Pyne is using the deregulation debate to distract from his plan to reduce government funding for undergraduate students by one fifth and allow fees to treble.
Mr Pyne has again accused Labor of running a scare campaign: the fact is that students have every right to be fearful.
Figures released by Queensland University of Technology today show that if Pyne’s unfair package is allowed to pass, the cost of a nursing degree will increase by 55 per cent.
The biggest threat to QUT’s budget is the Abbott Government’s plan to take $188 million away from it.
Further, I question whether the assumptions underlying the fee structures published today account for the cost of scholarships, research, Education Investment Fund losses and above all lost indexation.
We have already seen that the University of Western Australia will put up the cost of its Arts degree by 160 per cent, and hike its fees for Science by over 80 per cent.
That the Education Minister has described such fee increases as “modest” shows that Mr Pyne really is living in a parallel universe.
As for Mr Pyne’s request for Labor to support his equally flawed and unfair plan B package, our position is clear: there is a snowflake’s chance in hell of Labor ever passing this unfair higher education package.
And this is just the Abbott Government’s opening gambit. If they get away with cutting 20 per cent of university fees in their first budget, how much will they cut in the second?
There is only one person who needs to admit his “big lie” and that is Christopher Pyne.
Labor is putting Mr Pyne on notice: if he proceeds with misleading, taxpayer-funded advertising saying that the Government will pay half the cost of a university degree, we will hold him to account for this falsehood.
As the QUT figures published today show, for business students, their contributions would increase to a whopping 88 per cent as a result of the Government’s changes.
That’s a long way from the 50 per cent Mr Pyne is claiming.
Mr Pyne urges Australians to “trust their universities to set reasonable fees”. This hands-off, she’ll be right mate approach to one of the most important sectors of our economy and our society is totally unsatisfactory.
The only certainties are that university fees will go up and that you can’t trust the Abbott Government.
None of the east coast sandstone universities have yet disclosed what their fees would be under Mr Pyne’s plan.
Labor stands by our claim that we will see $100,000 degrees.
Mr Pyne misjudges the Senate, in the same way he misjudges the Australian people, at his peril.
FRIDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2014