Thursday, 18 November 2010
Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010
I rise in this debate on the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010, near its conclusion, to endorse the remarks of those members on this side of the House who have spoken in this debate, who have defended freedom of association and who have pointed out the hypocrisy of the position of those opposite who ran to the 2007 election promising that they would never introduce legislation of this type. Many members have spoken, including the members for Mayo, Moncrieff and Indi, who have outlined our very strong views on this subject—views in favour of giving students choice and freedom of association.
We have heard a number of contributions from those opposite. We recently heard a contribution from the member for Melbourne. There was no mention from the member for Melbourne about the part-time student who rarely, if at all, attends a campus, no mention of the part-time nursing student simply wanting to get his or her degree and no mention of someone doing a degree while working and coming onto campus at night merely wanting to complete their degree. But there was lots of mention of all the sorts of things other students can fund, for students like he was at the time, but no mention of any of that at all.
We have heard rightly from this side of the House that this is a broken election promise. There is no doubt about that. The Labor Party ran to the 2007 election pledging that they absolutely would not introduce the very legislation we are again debating. The shadow minister at the time, the member for Perth, Mr Smith, was asked on 22 May the following question:
On the funding side, have you canvassed or are you contemplating some sort of loan or deferred payment.
No, absolutely not. One thing I can absolutely rule out is that I am not considering a HECS style arrangement, particularly a compulsory HECS style arrangement. I do not know where that came from. That may have been a suggestion made by one of the interested parties to a journalist, but I certainly do not have on my list an extension of HECS, either voluntary or compulsory, to fund these services. So I absolutely rule that out.
Over and over again, every time the Labor Party was asked, it said that it would not be altering in any way, shape or form the voluntary student union arrangements that the Howard government had introduced. There was not a cigarette paper between the government and the opposition.
Some have said in this debate that every member of the Labor Party elected at the 2007 election ran to that election on a false promise. Nearly every member opposite, and the member for Indi will recall this, ran to the 2007 election—I regret to inform the House that the member for Ballarat was one of them—promising that they would never introduce this legislation. But I am glad that the member for Kingsford Smith, now the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, is here in the chamber about to sum up the debate because he was something of an exception in the 2007 election. He was the one member of the Labor Party to tell the truth. I have a soft spot for the member for Kingsford Smith. I can reveal to him I once went to one of his concerts. I was very young. I liked the tunes, but I did not like the words. I think that he is a pretty honest sort of guy. The member for Kingsford Smith was the only member of the Labor Party who promised what is actually happening in this House today, and that was when he uttered those words, ‘Once we get in, we will change it all.’ And he was right. You get into trouble in the Labor Party for being right. He got into trouble that day, that famous Friday. As soon as he gets off a plane, he makes sure Steve Price is nowhere in the airport. He was the only one who said, ‘Once we get in, we will change it all.’ And that is what they have done. What that shows is that, in the choice between keeping a promise and doing the right thing by the students of Australia, the Labor Party will always make sure students come second-best.
This bill should not be passed. This is a broken election promise. It is bad for students. Speakers on our side of the House have outlined and stood up for that principle. This is yet another example of what Labor does: they will say one thing before an election and do another thing after. The member for Kingsford Smith, now the minister, will be able to come to the dispatch box and he will be able to say to the House, to the exclusion of all other members of the Labor Party, ‘At least I said that once we get in we will change it all,’ and you have.