Universities confirm Pyne’s package rotten at the core

Today’s statement by the Group of Eight and the Regional Universities Network gives the lie to Christopher Pyne’s claim that regional universities and low-income students are the big winners from his retrograde higher education package.

I can say that regional universities will be the biggest winners from this reform … 

[CHRISTOPHER PYNE - ABC RADIO, AM - 28 AUGUST 2014]

The joint call by Go8 and RUN for targeted support for regional universities and low-income students is an admission of the inequality at the heart of the higher education package.

This latest proposal from the sector makes clear the fault line that runs right through Christopher Pyne’s ill-considered package. 

“The Government has a community obligation to provide structural adjustment assistance to regional universities that face revenue raising and delivery disabilities, especially those in thin markets, to remain viable in a more open higher education market.”  

[PROFESSOR IAN YOUNG, CHAIR OF Go8 – MEDIA RELEASE - 8 SEPTEMBER 2014]

The recognition of the plan’s essential unfairness vindicates Labor’s conviction that this is a policy built on inequity.

It highlights the failure of the Abbott Government’s policy process – no green paper, no white paper, no exposure draft legislation and no consultation prior to the release of the surprise package in the Budget.

Far from being the well-oiled machine Christopher Pyne claims, the Abbott Government’s package has been exposed by its strongest proponents, the Group of Eight universities, as a lemon.

The compromises that the various parties are now seeking risk creating a patchwork system of university support – a hodge podge of funding mechanisms that lacks policy coherence.

No amount of sugar coating by the Abbott Government will make this unfair and ill-considered package more palatable.

This is not to criticise the regional universities, which are seriously threatened by the Abbott Government’s proposed changes – something Labor has been saying since day one.

Now that his strongest supporters have recognised that regional universities would be seriously disadvantaged by “letting it rip” on deregulation, Mr Pyne needs to admit it is time to go back to the drawing board.

The Senate inquiry into the higher education bill provides the first opportunity for the Parliament to consider the Abbott Government’s proposals in detail.

Labor encourages all interested parties to make their voices heard by making a submission to the inquiry.

MONDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2014


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