Doorstop interview, Parliament House

MONDAY, 14 JULY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Voters reject Government’s higher education cuts and fee increases; exorbitant veterinary degrees; Senate and scrapping carbon tax.

KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: I want to talk to you about higher education. Today we’ve seen released polling materials which show that nearly two-thirds of Australians have rejected this Government’s vicious, cruel attacks upon our higher education system.

Now I’m told through backdoor channels that the Government’s not proposing to bring the legislation to the Parliament until at least October; it will be December, I suspect, before the Senate gets to actually cast judgment on this matter. All the signs are that not just two-thirds of Australians are rejecting this bill, but the Senate will as well.

The Government should abandon its $100,000 university degree, abandon its attempts to impose massive fee rises on Australian students, and debts on Australian families, and should go back to the drawing board on what is a policy which will do great harm to the future of Australia.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Could there be a level of uncertainty if the Senate does block these reforms?

CARR: Well, there’s no uncertainty – they will be rejected. It’s very clear that the Australian public does not want to see $100,000 university degrees. The future of this nation depends upon our capacity to make sure that we can provide decent education, quality education, at reasonable costs to Australian families. And what we’re seeing from this Government, is broken promises – there was never any undertaking before any election about these measures ­– and massive uncertainty for Australian families as a result of the Government’s attempts to impose crippling debts, crippling fee rises and to cripple Australia’s higher education system.

Now with veterinary students, for instance, we’re likely to see a 150 per cent increase in the cost of getting a degree. Now we know these are people that are predominantly women, they’re predominantly low income – much lower income than any other in the medical fraternity – they have very low starting salaries, and they’re likely to see repayment schedules blow out to over 35 years. Now this is at a time when people are trying to raise a family, get a housing loan, and get on with their lives.

And these are the sorts of debts that have huge impacts – particularly for rural and regional Australians. And you’ve got to ask yourself, what’s the National Party doing about this, what action are they taking to defend rural and regional students from these crippling debts and these crippling cost increases and taking away the possibility of people being able to get access to the Australian dream?

JOURNALIST: Do you think this is feeding into the latest Newspoll, showing Labor with a significant margin?

CARR: There’s no doubt that the Australian public rejects these schemes. You don’t need a poll to tell you how unpopular these changes are because of what they do for family debts, what they do to the costs of people getting a decent education, and for what they do to ripping up the Australian dream when it comes to the question of being able to secure a decent future for your family.

And this is also about the future of the country. This is a government that seems to have abandoned any commitment to fairness, it’s lied to produce these results, it’s lazy, it’s incompetent when it comes to dealing with the parliamentary processes and it’s incompetent when dealing with the policy challenges that are facing this country.

JOURNALIST: Are we going to see another shambles in the Senate like last week?

CARR: Well, you can only ask yourself what does it take for a government to show this level of arrogance yet at the same time be so incompetent. It can’t even organise a guillotine, it can’t even organise to get its legislative program through when it has, it says, agreements in place with the crossbenchers.

Now what we do know is that this is a government that when it had a majority last time in the Senate gave us WorkChoices.  This is a government that doesn’t seem to be able to track a bleeding elephant through snow when it comes to getting basic things done in the Australian Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it inevitable that this week we’ll most likely see the carbon tax scrapped with the support of those crossbenchers?

CARR: Well, you have to say that all the evidence is that third time lucky the Government may secure its change – but what’s that mean for the future of the country? These events would be comical if it wasn’t so serious for the future of Australia when it comes to dealing with the big challenges of climate change. What does it mean for Australian industry and its ability to modernise; the ability to secure long-term, high-tech jobs? What’s it mean for our international competitiveness, when around the world, we know, that governments are working with industry to secure the changes to modernise industries to secure high-tech, high-skill, high-wage jobs for their people?

Thank you very much.


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