ABC NewsRadio, Breakfast with Marius Benson

MONDAY, 14 JULY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Higher education cuts; Delayed legislation; Crossbenchers; Exorbitant veterinary degrees; Senate.

MARIUS BENSON: Kim Carr, it looks like the carbon tax from Labor’s point of view is a lost cause, that the Palmer United votes are going to be critical in seeing that go through, but you’re still fighting battles on other fronts, including the education one. Have you had talks with the crossbenchers to see what sort of support you’re going to get there to fight, particularly, tertiary cuts?

KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: Well, the higher education cuts are really bad news for Australia. They’re bad news for working families; they’re bad news for families that are aspiring to do a bit better than their parents have done, so it’s not surprising that there is widespread hostility to these changes in the community and widespread hostility to the Government’s proposals in the Senate.

But I’m calling on the Government to produce the legislation. What we’re hearing from back channels is that the Government is delaying the legislation to introduce these proposals – we’re not expecting to see the legislation now until October. This is extraordinary, that the Government seems to be so badly prepared for such a far-reaching and devastating set of changes.

BENSON: The crossbenchers obviously are critical to the fortunes of any legislation that goes to the Senate. At this early stage have you had any talks with any of the crossbenchers?

CARR: Yes, I have, and it’s clear to me that on the present indications there is not going to be a majority in the Senate for the Government’s crippling changes to debt levels, crippling cuts to higher education, and proposals which would cripple the future for many Australian families.

BENSON: The Government says you’re just taking the luxurious position that an opposition can take of opposing anything that involves pain for the electorate while proposing no alternative way back to a surplus in the Budget – is that fair?

CARR: That’s not fair, and in regard to higher education, this is about the future of Australia. This is about whether or not Australians have the opportunity to realise their dreams for a better way of life. This is about the future productivity of the nation. We see, for instance, on the question of veterinary students – we’ve got a situation here where the Government’s changes are going to make it incredibly difficult for us to be able to provide enough vets across the country.

Now, you’ve got to ask yourself, what has the National Party been doing about this? We’re seeing that we’re likely to realise a 150 per cent increase in the cost of undertaking a veterinary degree, and for many women, particularly women that would wish to have children, you’re likely to see a degree take much, much longer; much, much higher levels of cost; much, much higher levels of debt, and particularly in rural and regional areas great disadvantage being experienced by families who have a right to expect a decent education and not have to pay the $150,000-plus costs of undertaking a university degree.

BENSON: Senator Carr, can I take you away from education specifically and ask you about the Senate, because you know a bit about the Senate, you’ve been there a couple of decades – how different is this Senate with the Palmer United Party, with eight crossbenchers, to previous Senates? Governments usually don’t have the luxury of having the numbers in the upper house and the lower house, but how different is it this time?

CARR: Well, a government hasn’t had a majority in the Senate since the last Howard Government, and we saw WorkChoices come about during that period, so it’s unusual for governments to have a majority in the Senate. What is equally unusual is the appalling ignorance of this Government, and the arrogance with which it’s applying its approach to politics in Australia; there’s a failure to be able to negotiate, a failure to be able to communicate, a failure to have even rudimentary understandings of what it takes to actually get a majority for such a simple measure as a guillotine.

BENSON: Senator Kim Carr, thank you very much.

CARR: Thank you very much.


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