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Issue #1801      November 1, 2017

Higher education funding cuts

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is calling upon the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, to abandon his higher education funding cuts following last month’s announcement by Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) education spokesperson, Rebekha Sharkie, ruling out support for key elements of the government’s plans, including cuts to the Commonwealth Grants Scheme, increases in student fees and lowering the repayment threshold on HELP debts.

“It is critical that Senator Birmingham ends the uncertainty around higher education funding by acknowledging that he does not have support for his so-called reforms in the Senate, with NXT now joining the ALP, the Greens and other Senators in opposition,” said NTEU national president, Jeannie Rea.

“The Minister needs to publicly state that the government is abandoning its current policies and is withdrawing its legislation from Parliament, so that universities, their staff and current and future students can make informed decisions about their futures.

“It would be highly irresponsible for the Minister to claim that his reforms remain government policy with an expectation that he will be able to garner enough support to get the necessary legislation through the Senate. We cannot afford another protracted period where unlegislated (zombie) policy measures remain on the Senate notice paper with no prospect of ever being passed.”

The consequences of doing so could mean another period where the Department of Education and Training withholds university funding, not on the basis of legislated policy, but because cuts to public investment in our universities remains the government’s intended policy.

“NTEU agrees with the NXT’s call for a review of post-secondary education that focuses upon both higher education and Vocational Education and Training.

“We also note that with the Labour Party forming government in New Zealand, tuition fee free higher education is no longer just a feature of European countries, but now on a government policy agenda in our region.

“It is time for Australian politicians to stop looking at how cheaply they can fund education, and instead prioritise what matters over tax breaks and handouts to wealthy corporations,” concluded Rea.

Next article – NBN under privatisation burden

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