Senate debates

Monday, 16 March 2015

Matters of Public Importance

Higher Education

5:07 pm

Photo of Glenn LazarusGlenn Lazarus (Queensland, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about this very important matter of public importance and to say that I am opposed to the Abbott government's higher education measures. I should note the latest backflip on cuts to R&D jobs and movement of the 20 per cent cut in funding to a future bill typifies the dysfunctional way in which the Abbott government is operating.

I have consulted widely with stakeholders across the higher education sector. The feedback has been unanimous: universities want funding increased, not cut. If the higher education measures bill is introduced into the Senate this sitting, Australia can be assured I will be voting it down. The Abbott government's higher education measures are not about anything other than budget cuts. Deregulation will give the Abbott government the green light to cut funding to the sector. Universities will be forced to increase the price of degrees in order to meet operating costs. The latest backflip is simply an attempt to delay the cuts slightly, but rest assured: if the deregulation gets through, the cuts to the higher education sector will come.

In addition, the recent proposal put forward to tax universities if they increase fees too much—which essentially involves regulation of deregulation of regulation—is just plain silly and demonstrates how desperate the Abbott government is.

I have made my position clear. I do not support the Abbott government's higher education measures. Deregulation will significantly change the higher education funding system in Australia and push degrees beyond the reach of most Australians. Such a significant structural change to the higher education system will have far-reaching and negative consequences for our country. Once the deregulation switch is turned on, it will be impossible to turn it back. Australia will be well on its way to an Americanised system where only the wealthy get ahead and the poor are laden with debt or simply left behind. I do not support the measures. I will continue to vote against the measures whether they are in one bill or in many.

The future of our country depends on our ability to innovate, create and lead in the areas of scientific and medical breakthroughs. The world will pay for these advancements and initiatives. We cannot compete against countries in Asia with lower production costs, so we need to lead in other areas. This requires a commitment to higher education and the development and advancement of our people.

All successful societies prosper through investment in education. Clever countries succeed. The Abbott government's higher education measures will only send Australia backwards. We will become the dumb country. I represent the people of Queensland, and the people of Queensland do not want these cuts to higher education. I am not prepared to horse trade. I cannot and will not support any measures which discourages Australians from wanting to better themselves through higher education.

Debate interrupted.


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