Monday, 15 June 2020
COVID-19: Higher Education
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Australian universities are facing massive losses in revenue as a result of falling enrolments during the COVID-19 crisis, and
(ii) universities across the country have begun to announce job cuts, with up to 30,000 jobs expected to be lost;
(b) calls on vice-chancellors to prioritise retaining staff, including those on casual and fixed-term contracts, in their responses to revenue losses, and
(c) calls on the government to include all universities in the JobKeeper scheme.
Australian universities remain eligible for JobKeeper if they satisfy the relevant criteria. Our COVID-19 higher education relief package guarantees over $18 billion in funding this year and allows Australians out of work due to COVID-19 to gain new skills in priority areas such as nursing, teaching, health, IT and science through short online courses at significant discounts. It also exempts students who access FEE-HELP or VET student loans from 1 April to 30 September from loan fees to engage with new study or continue their course, and it provides regulatory fee relief so that institutions can better support their students during this crisis.
One Nation does not support this. It's about time that universities became more accountable for how they spend our hard-earned taxes. They teach students business and risk management skills but apparently could not teach themselves. They made risky business investments when they should've focused on building Australian capability. Fat-cat university executives, who earn around $1.2 million each year plus bonuses, spent our money on underutilised facilities and student accommodation that should've been left to the open market to own and operate. Last year the Centre for Independent Studies warned the University of Queensland that they risked a taxpayer funded bailout because of their overreliance on Chinese overseas students, yet the University of Queensland did nothing. Universities are not treating us or our money with respect. Everyone is suffering during the economic downturn, and universities are not a protected species. They created their own problems. They need to apply some basic business principles and to sort out a sustainable business model—revenue, expenses, risk and quality.
(In division) Stop the count. Senator Roberts, I'm sorry, you're moving around. Are you in the count?
Senator Roberts interjecting—
Can you please resume your seat. Please don't move. I do remind senators that, when the count is on, once the tellers have been appointed, you need to remain in your seats.