Tuesday, 12 May 2020
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 525 standing in my name for today relating to the tertiary education system, before asking that it be taken as a formal motion.
I amend the motion in the terms circulated in the chamber and move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) successive governments have cut university funding, leaving the sector reliant on international student fees to fund education and research,
(ii) the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted how vulnerable the government has left our tertiary education system, and
(iii) the Government has allowed casualisation and insecure work to run rampant at universities, to the detriment of students' learning, staff well-being and research excellence; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to: (i) end the funding freeze on Commonwealth supported places,
(ii) boost funding per-Commonwealth supported place student by 10%,
(iii) ensure universities are eligible for the JobKeeper scheme, and also provide a new package that will massively boost funding, save jobs and improve working conditions for staff, and
(iv) support international students through this crisis.
The Morrison government is providing record funding to Australia's universities of $18.2 billion in 2020, with funding set to grow each year, in line with population growth, under performance based funding. International students arriving in Australia are required to support themselves for their first year as a condition of their student visa. Those here for longer can access their superannuation like other Australians facing financial difficulties. Two hundred million dollars has been provided to charities and community groups to support those in need, including international students. Universities, together with states and territories, have established hardship funds and other supports. Australia's universities are autonomous institutions governed by university councils. Reporting of liquidity across the sector as of 31 December 2018 showed total cash and investments of $20.3 billion. Universities are eligible for JobKeeper if they meet the relevant criteria.
One Nation opposes this motion. We are concerned that everyday Australians who are doing it tough right now may have to bail out the universities that have become dependent on foreign students. These universities exposed us to significant financial risk when they spent vast amounts of our money on overseas students to create more revenue for them. So where was their detailed business case and their risk analysis? If government did a utilisation study on these campuses before approving more building, they would find that their existing buildings are underused. And universities should not be in the accommodation business. James Cook University has just tendered to develop student accommodation, at a time when I found 216 vacant rental properties in Townsville today. James Cook University should give us our money back. We value their research and teaching, but they must act professionally. If the universities were serious then they would lead by example and cut the million-dollar-plus vice-chancellor salaries. Why won't they? Because they lack accountability.
Sorry—leave is not granted to make a statement.
Senator Gallagher interjecting—
You can move a suspension of standing orders to the extent that would allow you to make a statement for one minute, and I will put that to a vote without debate.
I make this statement because, originally, one minute statements were used to explain a voting position, not to debate the motion, which is why leave hasn't been granted in the past when it's to debate motions. One minute statements are for explaining a voting position. Labor will be opposing this motion because important facts in the motion aren't true.