ABC Hobart, Mornings with Sarah Gillman


SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s cuts to University of Tasmania; NBN report; unemployed Queenstown miners; new CSIRO research vessel.

SARAH GILLMAN: One of the contentious Budget items still involves the deregulation of universities and the Federal Opposition claims that if it does go ahead, if it gets through the Senate, then the University of Tasmania will have to cut down its course offering and potentially close one of its two regional campuses. Labor’s Kim Carr is in the state today to talk to people at the university and he joins us now. Good morning.


GILLMAN: First of all, what has the University of Tasmania told you?

CARR: It’s clear that the facts of the matter go to the issue of the consequences of the Government’s proposed changes would see the University of Tasmania have to find $35 million a year as a consequence of the cuts directly to the Commonwealth’s funding to the university. Now, that’s money that simply could not be made up by charging higher fees because of the overall characteristics of students at the University of Tasmania. Simply, there are very high numbers of people from poorer backgrounds in this state, there are much higher numbers of mature-age students enrolled, who simply can’t afford the higher fees that the Government says should be charged to make up for the cuts that they are imposing.

GILLMAN: Now the state Education Minister, Jeremy Rockcliff, has met his federal counterpart Christopher Pyne to urge a rethink. How confident are you that the Senate will block this?

CARR: I’m very confident that the Senate will say to the Government, go back to the drawing board. This change that they’re proposing has had such a radical effect on the way we live in Australia that we will see students in Tasmania and people in Tasmania seriously disadvantaged.

One of the principles we’ve said about our university system is that it has to meet economic objectives; it also has to meet social objectives of making Australia a more prosperous and fairer country. And the Government’s proposals, as we see in so many areas, are fundamentally unfair. The Government lied to us about what they intended to do, and it’s important for the Senate to say, go back to the drawing board, start this again.

When John Dawkins went to move towards big changes in the university system, there was a massive process of consultation – a green paper, a white paper, draft legislation and massive consultation across society. This Government has sought to sneak these things through as a budget measure in complete defiance of what they said during the election campaign.

GILLMAN: As well as being the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, you’re also the Shadow Minister for Research, Innovation and Industry. And I know that the Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is flying into the state today. One of the things he’ll do is go to Queenstown to meet unemployed miners. Does the Labor Party still support the call to redirect the $16 million promised for upgrades to Hobart’s Cadbury factory to support the west coast?

CARR: I believe that you’ve got to find the money to be able to help people who are facing unemployment. And I’m not talking about Mickey Mouse schemes to paint rocks white or mistreat people by cutting their wages or undermining their skills; I’m talking about providing investment for high-skill jobs in this state.

What the Labor Party is determined to do, and what we did do when we were in government, particularly in the north and the north-west of the state, was to find the money to allow investments to take place, particularly in manufacturing, to secure high-skill jobs for people in this state. And we still maintain the view that the critical role of government is to protect the living standards of ordinary people.

GILLMAN: Just on another subject, while we’ve got you, because one of the things the Labor Party also did was to start up the roll-out of the National Broadband Network. I know that you were Minister for Industry then, and also I think at one stage Acting Communications Minister.

CARR: Yes.

GILLMAN: An independent audit that’s been carried out by former Productivity Commission head Bill Scales for the Government shows that the policy’s formation was rushed, chaotic and inadequate. In fact, he says that it was an extraordinary leap into the unknown, the most reckless commitment of Commonwealth funds in our history. What’s your reaction to that?

CARR: Well, I’ve seen now there’s about half a dozen reports by Mr Turnbull trying to denigrate the reputation of Senator Conroy here. We know that he calls upon his mates on a regular basis, he’s spent $10 million trying to find these reports, instead of getting on with building one of the major pieces of national infrastructure – nation-building technology, which we want to see go to every house and every business in the country; it’ll revolutionise the way in which we live in this country –  this Government, of course, is preoccupied with trying to denigrate the reputation of Senator Conroy.

Now, what we’ve got here is like today with the news about the receipt of or the handing over of the new vessel for the CSIRO, a fundamental difference here: Labor is about building infrastructure, about building the nation, and the vessel that we have now taken carriage of is a vessel that will double the capacity for our marine research in this state. We’ve got the third-largest marine zone in the world, but only 12 per cent of it has actually been mapped. So it’s critically important to be able to have the research capacity. That’s why I’m here today to talk to the CSIRO –  60 jobs are being taken out of the CSIRO in Tasmania as a result of this Government’s penny-pinching attitude towards undermining the prosperity of the future of this nation, so there’s a contrast: building the nation, or cutting it back.

GILLMAN: On that though, just back to the report, just briefly and finally, Bill Scales questions whether a full range of options were considered and he said he found no evidence of a business case, independent study or cost-benefit analysis being undertaken. In retrospect, could you have done it better?

CARR: Well, I think that Bill Scales probably didn’t have access to all the information. But this was a politically generated report. As a member of the cabinet, I sat in on those conversations. I can assure your listeners that there were extensive discussions about the options, about building an incredibly important piece of national infrastructure to further the prosperity of this nation, and it’s simply not true to say that this was money ill-spent. Telstra obviously opposed what we were doing in government, because this was a threat to the way they were running communications policy; the Government should be running communications policy and it should be doing it for the benefit of the people of Australia. And that’s what the NBN was all about – building this nation.

GILLMAN: Kim Carr, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time.

CARR: Thank you very much.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.