Doorstop interview, Parliament House


SUBJECT/S: Higher education confusion; Cuts to funding; Crippling fees and debts.

KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: The Australian people have got a right to feel very confused about what the Government’s higher education policies are all about and students have got a right to feel very angry and a right to feel betrayed.

The Minister yesterday yet again demonstrated he either didn’t understand what he was saying or has been in the process of misleading – it’s a process that began before the election and has continued after the election.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: You said in the ‘process of misleading,’ do you think it is the fact that he’s misleading rather than he doesn’t understand his own policies?

CARR: Oh, I think he’s probably got adequate advice. This is a policy that was originated with David Kemp’s Cabinet submission from 1999. This is a Government that in Opposition did no serious policy work and have relied upon very limited sources of advice outside of the political system and have relied very heavily on David Kemp and his leaked submission.

If you look at that submission from 1999 you see a replica of that – except this: David Kemp actually understood there were social equity issues, and so took steps to make it easier in terms of social equity and making sure that Australia was much more likely to be able to encourage students from low and middle incomes to be able to get a higher education. Under these policies, it’s going to make it very, very difficult for low- and middle-income Australian families to be able to ensure that the next generation is able to secure the benefits of a higher education.

JOURNALIST:  We’re seeing vice-chancellors coming out and saying look these fees could double. What do you make of the Government’s arguments that some fees could go up and some could go down?

CARR: Well, the Government is talking complete nonsense – complete and total nonsense. You can’t take out the sort of cuts that they are taking from the universities – in the case of Melbourne University, $62 million; the University of Queensland, $60 million; Deakin University, some $43 million – you can’t take that money out of the universities and not expect it to have serious consequences. And under the Government’s policy, the universities are actually encouraged to put their fees up. Now, if you want to add in to that the price of trying to encourage research at universities, then the fees will go up much more substantially.

So what the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne has indicated is just the tip of the iceberg. You’re likely to find very substantial, very substantial fee increases – university degrees costing between $100,000 and $200,000 at compound interest rates, interest rates which will see crippling debts for the next generation of Australian students. Now these are measures that apply to people who enrol after 14 May, these are measures that apply to people who currently have a HECS debt – 1.1 million Australians currently have a HECS debt – you can expect those sorts of numbers to be the sort of numbers that Australians are now having to face with crippling debts into the future.

JOURNALIST: What will this debt mean for the next generation, particularly young people?

CARR: Well, just think about it. People in their 20s, finishing their university degree with a very substantial debt, growing every year, growing dramatically every year, trying to form a family, trying to buy a house, these are placing untold  burdens on future generations of young Australians.

But also think about it in terms of families that want to help their children get through these difficult parts of life. They’ve just got through the burdens of paying the university costs that go with everyday life, also the costly experience of school, now they got to take out a second mortgage. Many families will have to take out a second mortgage – like they do in the United States – if they want to help their kids get through this period.  So it’s crippling for generations to come and for people who currently think the worst is behind them in terms of trying to support their families.

Thank you.


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