Hockey's higher education blackmail exposes Government's real motive

Reports that Joe Hockey has upped the ante on threats to slash university funding show that the Abbott Government's higher-education package is nothing more than a short-sighted cost-cutting exercise.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has been telling Senators he's willing to compromise, but now the Treasurer threatens to “find any way we can” to slash funding if the Senate doesn't pass the Government's fundamentally unfair changes.

“We’ll find any way we can to take the money out of the universities.”

-      Joe Hockey, Australian Financial Review, 4 November 2014

Mr Pyne has previously angered Senators by saying that the Government would hold nation-building research infrastructure and early-career researcher programs hostage to fee deregulation.

"Any cut to research funding would only undermine the global competitiveness of Australia's universities," said Shadow Higher Education Minister Kim Carr.

"To get its way, the Abbott Government appears to be willing to destroy the very thing it pretends it wants to improve.

“Labor and the Australian people will not sign up to Tony Abbott’s $100,000 university degrees, and we won’t accept Joe Hockey’s pathetic attempt at blackmail.”

According to its own Budget tables, the Government has already cut $400 million from science, research and innovation funding in 2014-15 alone.

In total, it is proposing to cut $9 billion out of Australia’s innovation system, including $5.8 billion from higher education.

"Mr Hockey forgets that he will still need to get legislation through the Senate to make these cuts. The discretionary cuts a government can make without legislation are relatively small,” Senator Carr said.

"Labor will continue to fight this reckless policy because it is bad for students and bad for the nation.

"The fast-growing nations of our region are massively increasing their investment in science and research, because they know innovation is the key to building a strong economy that will provide the jobs of the future.

"Ripping money out of universities and slugging students with crippling debt is not the way to compete in the Asian century.

"The fact that Joe Hockey thinks it is shows how out-of-touch the Abbott Government is with economic reality."


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