Education Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday failed to comply with an order of the Senate to produce documents on the Liberals’ use of $150,000 to hire a former senior public servant to try and negotiate their plan for $100,000 degrees through the Senate.

Senator Birmingham was ordered to provide to the Senate by 3:30pm today all documents relating to the Nous Group’s contract to conduct an “Assessment of Stakeholder Views – Higher Education”.

The motion stated that references to the views of individual Senators and their staff should be omitted, in recognition of the fact that cross-bench Senators had not been consulted about how the consultant presented their views.

In August AusTender documents showed that Christopher Pyne agreed to spend $150,000 for the Nous Group to meet with the cross-bench Senators and find a way out of the Liberals’ deregulation disaster.

Then it was revealed that the consultant was none other than the former Associate Secretary of the Education Department who had been in charge of developing the package.

Australian taxpayers have a right to know that their taxes have been used wisely and are actually achieving results.

Instead, the Liberals are hiding the details of this questionable contract. 

Senator Birmingham thought it was sufficient to table a letter claiming that the report was a “deliberative document” for the Department of Education and Training and Government, and as such could not be released, even in redacted form.

This extends the definition of “deliberative document” beyond material that feeds directly into Cabinet decision-making and into anything the Department might consider along the way.

And he simply ignored the fact that the Order for Production of Documents also included the contract and any other relevant documents.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government previously wasted $15 million of taxpayers’ money on a misleading ad campaign for a policy which has now ended up on the backburner.

Senator Birmingham recently admitted that there is no way the Liberals’ changes can be implemented in 2016, but it’s clear that the changes have only been delayed.

What Senator Birmingham should do is stop wasting taxpayer’s money and dump the Liberals’ plan for $100,000 degrees altogether.

Labor will continue to fight the Liberals’ plan for $100,000 degrees, funding cuts and deregulation – a plan that is overwhelmingly opposed by the Australian people.

Labor has a positive for universities that will deliver more graduates, not $100,000 degrees, to drive our economy.

Only Labor is committed to investing in the skills, science, research and innovation that will create and sustain the jobs of the future.


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