Shadow Minister for Higher Education Kim Carr and Labor Senator Helen Polley have today repeated calls for Bass Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic to stand up and defend the University of Tasmania (UTAS).
Today in Question Time, Senator Carr asked several searching questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Senator Marissa Payne, about the future of regional higher education.
When asked about reports featured in The Examiner on 17 June raising the possibility of campus closures in the state’s north as a result of the Abbott Government’s $30 million dollar cut to UTAS, Senator Payne appeared to think that creative thinking could overcome a lack of proper funding for higher education.
“What is actually the problem here is not the government's proposals but those opposite's complete incapacity to think outside the square for even a moment in terms of the operation of Australia's higher education sector…”
SENATOR MARISSA PAYNE, SENATE QUESTION TIME, 16 JULY 2014
Senator Carr said the government had deliberately avoided answering his questions on the future of higher education in northern Tasmania.
“Today the government had the opportunity to spell out its plans for UTAS in northern Tasmania and Senator Payne completely failed to deliver,” Senator Carr said.
“Christopher Pyne’s cruel and short-sighted cuts to higher education will threaten regional universities such as UTAS. What it means for those who work and study at the campus is that student fees will rise, courses will be slashed and research abandoned.
“I asked Senator Payne to cite a single example of where a university deregulation in another country has resulted in lower fees and lower student debts she couldn’t provide a single one. Yet Christopher Pyne has been quoted as saying that: 'We are trying to help rural and regional Australians by allowing their universities to compete on price'.”
“Sadly, outstanding universities such as UTAS will no longer be able to offer a high quality of education unless they take the option of slugging students with unbearable levels of debt.”
Senator Polley said that Liberal MP for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, must surely be concerned about his government’s lack of commitment to Launceston’s Newnham campus, which has close to 6000 students and acts as a vital employer in the region.
“I would assume that Mr Nikolic is growing nervous because Senator Payne could barely bring herself to defend the Abbott Government’s plans for higher education,” Senator Polley said.
“Unfortunately, Senator Payne’s answers highlighted just why Mr Nikolic needs to act immediately to save UTAS and ensure that a higher education is accessible to all Tasmanians.
“The Newnham campus is an economic driver for the region, it generates research and it provides jobs.
“There should be no higher priority for Mr Nikolic than defending this university against unjust higher education cuts that will compromise its very future.”
WEDNESDAY, 16 JULY 2014