Page 1959 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 14 May 2013

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David Gonski himself has said that Labor is mishandling the reforms. He has attacked tertiary education cuts and stated:

As chancellor of a leading Australian university, I fervently believe in and will continue to advocate that increases be made in funding the university sector.

The criticisms are not surprising. This is, after all, a federal Labor government who threw $16 billion at school halls, many unwanted, and of course much of the money was wasted because of the way it was spent and the haste with which it was spent. Now they want to slash billions from universities. School education minister Peter Garrett has said that universities should be able to “accommodate these efficiencies” and went on to say:

I think there will be scope for universities, they’re very big entities.

I believe these statements should be treated with the contempt that they deserve. Unfortunately, we have not had much in terms of advocacy for the university sector in the ACT from the Labor government. We know that effectively the cuts to the tertiary education sector are now part of the overall education package. The federal Labor government have said that they will fund the school sector more significantly, but they will fund universities less. So they now form part of the same package—a package which the Chief Minister has stated that she will be supporting, and appears to have already signed off on. We read this in the Canberra Times:

But Ms Gallagher warned that parents and students needed to understand the rate of growth in funding would be slower in the ACT than in the states and other territories.

So we are seeing a significant part of our economy in the tertiary education sector cut by the federal Labor government, and of course we are seeing less extra money coming into education in the ACT compared to other states. We miss out on both counts.

Under the former coalition government the number of students in higher education increased by 63 per cent, the number of postgraduate students by 118 per cent, the number of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds by 23 per cent and the number of students with disabilities by 140 per cent. The coalition also established a $6 billion higher education endowment fund to fund improved capital works and research facilities.

That is quite a record, and it stands in stark contrast to that of the federal Labor government. But it also, again, is the dividend of good economic management. When there is good budgetary and economic management, we see things like the $6 billion higher education endowment fund from the coalition. When there is poor budgetary and economic management from federal Labor, we see them having to cut the university sector in order to fund reforms in other parts of education. I think it is an example of the dividend of good economic management and the downside of poor economic management, which is what our nation is seeing right now.

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