Senate debates

Monday, 16 March 2015

Matters of Public Importance

Higher Education

4:25 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

We know this is consistent with the minister's behaviour because of what has happened today. Now we have learnt that there is no link with the $150 million allocated for the NCRIS—the national collaborative research infrastructure. Now that money is secure—only secure for one year. We have heard Senator Birmingham use the word 'decouple'—that is their word today—to make out that there is a separation here and trying to make out that there is a change to the higher education bill. There is no change. It is the same legislation, just split into two parts. University deregulation, with all the dangers and all the problems, is still alive before this chamber—as are the other measures with regard to the cuts to the community grants scheme.

So, we should not be conned by what this minister is doing. Minister Pyne has clearly taken up his place within the Abbott government bunker, really trying to ensure that they protect this government. Why has the minister done this today? Because this bill was at the point of being defeated for a second time. And it could have been an even more decisive defeat, with more crossbenchers voting with the Greens and Labor against this legislation that would have such a far-reaching and damaging impact on our higher education system. So the minister has come into play today, making out that something has changed and, again, misleading the public and people in this place when in fact he is still on the same tack, trying to avoid a decisive vote. He actually promised that as recently as Sunday, saying that the vote would occur on Wednesday when we could deal with this bill. But, again, clearly that would be embarrassing for this government and they have tried to change that.

So let us remind ourselves of why we need to have this debate today. The research that is undertaken by these scientists at the 27 research centres across this country is absolutely critical. It should never have been used by the minister in this way. This is not just something that can be funded on a yearly basis. What we should have seen from the minister when he made his statement today about this so-called—to use his word—'decoupling', where he said, 'Yes, that funding is assured,' was that the funding was for the long term. It should have been consistent with what is needed to ensure that this research can go ahead, with the confidence that it will be there for the long term.

Again, I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate that really does detail the damaging policies of this government to the higher education sector. (Time expired)


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