Page 1958 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 14 May 2013

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The tertiary sector in Canberra is vitally important not only to our economy but to our culture of diversity, discussion and debate. I know that my colleague Mr Doszpot, the shadow minister for education, will speak to this point.

Federal Labor’s decision to pit universities against high schools and primary schools is yet another example of a government that is making it up as it goes along. The $2.8 billion in cuts to universities is yet another consequence of five years of Labor mismanagement. The ACT has been the victim, and today’s federal budget will no doubt continue this mess of mismanagement and its effects on the ACT.

The government has announced a two per cent efficiency dividend on university funding in 2014 and 1.25 per cent the next year. This comes just as universities begin pay negotiations expected to increase wages bills by four per cent. It must be said that this is the legacy of economic mismanagement. This is the legacy of economic mismanagement under federal Labor.

The cuts have, of course, been widely condemned. Universities Australia chairman Glyn Davis said the efficiency dividend would place “severe strain” on the sector, which had been encouraged to expand enrolments to enable greater access to higher education. He added that the cuts came on top of the $1 billion that had been taken out of the system six months ago as part of the midyear economic and fiscal outlook.

Fred Hilmer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, slammed the cuts, describing them as “shortsighted” and “cynical”. He continued:

This is a bitterly disappointing, shortsighted move on the part of a government which claims education as one of its highest priorities. It is an absurdity to seek to provide students with a better education at school by providing a worse experience at university.

Jeannie Rea, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, deplored the cuts to university funding. She said:

The idea of cutting higher education to fund massive reforms in schooling, when the purpose of schooling is to prepare students for work and university, is ironic to say the least.

Colm Harmon, head of the University of Sydney’s economics school, said decisions impacting on one cohort—university students, in this case—could span generations. He stated:

Parents and children form their decisions to stay in education long before year 12 … By even hinting that supports may not be there for them when they reach that point you are dampening the potential impact of the ‘Gonski’ investment on participation right along the educational pathway.

Mr Assistant Speaker, you know that you have failed to institute the reforms when the namesake of said reforms publicly and loudly criticises the measures put forward.

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