House debates

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Statements by Members

COVID-19: Higher Education

1:58 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the thousands of workers at the University of New South Wales and other Australian universities, I ask the Prime Minister: why has your government abandoned universities during the COVID-19 pandemic? University education is one of the nation's most important industries and our largest employer. Our universities employ 260,000 people directly, and many more indirectly, across every state and territory in the country, yet the government has refused to make universities eligible for JobKeeper payments. Universities have seen huge falls in student numbers and revenue, and tens of thousands of jobs are now on the line. Academics, tutors, admin staff, library staff, catering staff, ground staff, cleaners and many more, all with family, are trying to make ends meet.

The government is also denying universities access to low-interest loans. University staff are doing their bit, volunteering to take pay cuts, taking fewer hours with less pay and leave without pay, but the government needs to play its part. Higher education is a huge contributor to our nation's income and economic growth, and it's an important driver of innovation and improved productivity, but it's been forgotten by this government. Universities are also home to the brilliant researchers that we're depending on to come up with cures and new treatments for COVID-19. I call on the government: put aside your ideological crusade against universities and give these important institutions and their workers the support that they deserve.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

In accordance with standing order 43, the time for members' statements has concluded.