Tuesday, 17 March 2015
Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014; Second Reading
But who knows what might happen if you set up a framework in years to come, when Senator Carr is not here—in 2045; or maybe he will be here in 2045! It may be problematic.
It is also important to consider the impact of HECS, which was alluded to by Ross Gittins. I do not want to criticise this scheme—far from it. It is a terrific scheme. It is an outstanding measure that sets our higher education system apart. But that has to be taken into account in the context of deregulation and issues of market failure.
I think that what we need to do now is pause. We need to actually reflect on what needs to be done. Reform is needed in this sector. We want to have the best university and higher education sector in the world.
We also need to acknowledge, in the brief time I have available in this debate, the issue put forward by the Council of Private Higher Education. I spoke today to Reverend Dr Don Owers AM, who runs Tabor, a college in Adelaide. I have enormous regard for him. He is concerned that these reforms proposed by the government could have been fairer if they had removed some of the equity barriers facing private higher education providers. I think that needs to be on the agenda as well.
But what we have right now is a mess. We need to step back from this and look at some comprehensive reform to get this right, because what has happened to date is less than satisfactory. We need to get this right. We owe it to the students of Australia and we owe it to the taxpayers of Australia to get this right. I cannot support the second reading of this bill but I hazard a guess that this will not be the end of it. We still have much work to do to do the right thing by this sector.