By Tanya Plibersek

06 October 2020


SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s uni fee increases and funding cuts; Budget.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING:  Just a little while ago, we learned that Centre Alliance have joined One Nation in doing a dirty deal with the Liberals to make it harder and more expensive to go to university.
Kids finishing high school this year have had the year from hell. They've been remote learning, some of them for days, some for weeks, some for months and this Government is now saying to them that they will pay thousands of dollars more for a university degree. Thousands of South Australian students will pay more than double for their university degree. That's what Centre Alliance had delivered today. They've joined One Nation in supporting the Liberals in putting up the cost of going to university. So an ordinary four-year degree will now cost around $58,000 for many disciplines. You think about those kids, they've had the year from hell, they're now being told that in four years’ time if they go to university, if they're lucky enough to get a place, they're going to be graduating with an American sized university debt at a time when the unemployment market is the worst it’s been in decades. It's absolutely cruel and it is inexplicable that Centre Alliance and One Nation would join the Government in this bill, which more than doubles the cost of going to university for thousands of students. I don't think Australians want an American-style university system where people graduate with debts that take them a lifetime to repay, if they ever repay them. You think about what it means when you graduate from university, you're at an age where you're getting your first job, perhaps starting a family, thinking about buying a home of your own to start off that process with a $58,000 debt. 
Every students who pays more, every student who misses out on a place, every job lost in the university sector is the fault of the Liberals, the Nationals, One Nation and Centre Alliance who have teamed up to push through this terrible legislation. At the heart of this Bill is a billion dollar cut from government funding to universities. At the heart of this Bill is a plan that more than doubles the cost of a university degree of thousands and thousands of Australians.
Now you would really think, at a time of recession, when we've got so many people joining the unemployment queues, that we would make it easier, simpler, more affordable to get an education. This Government is doing the exact opposite. We should be making it easier to go to TAFE or university. This Government is doing the exact opposite. Labor believes, and we have always worked to make sure that if you're prepared to work hard, if you're prepared to study hard, you can get a place at university. That's changed the lives of people like me, first in our family, first generation in our family to get the chance to go to university.
And I know many of my colleagues are in the same position because Labor Governments democratised access to university, we made it easier. We opened up university to working-class kids. This Government is slamming the door in their faces at a time when the alternative is being unemployed. We want to see university and TAFE more affordable, more available, more accessible, because it's good for individuals to get that sort of opportunities that we've taken for granted, my generation and taken for granted, but it's not just good for individuals. It's vital to our economic recovery. How do we recover as a country? We increase productivity. What's the best way of improving productivity? Investing in our people. Education and training is one of the best investments we can make as a nation. in increasing our productivity, helping Australia beat the recession. It's very disappointing to see Centre Alliance team up with One Nation, the Liberals and the Nationals today. I'm going to ask Amanda Rishworth to say a few words because of course South Australian kids under this deal are still going to pay thousands of dollars more for their degree.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MEMBER FOR KINGSTON: Well today we have seen Rebecca Sharkey sell out the young people of Mayo and Stirling Griff sell out the young people of South Australia. What we know is that there are more than 3,500 Year 12s that are going to have to pay more than double for their degree, if they choose to go to university next year. That will mean one of two things. One, they will end up with huge debts that will take them years to pay off, the other they may be a disincentive not to go to university at all.
So they may have a passion, they may have a dream to study something they love at university, to contribute to the society. But this cost is doubling and the cost of their degree could well be a disincentive to go to university. It's not good enough that Centre Alliance has sold out the young people of South Australia and sold out those people that want to maybe reinvent themselves. They may have found themselves without a job and want to actually go to uni for the first time. What Centre Alliance has done today is say that we are going to force huge costs onto you to make you pay more for your education, make it harder for you go to uni and more expensive.
Now, unfortunately for many young people around this country, but particularly in South Australia where unemployment is very, very high, this is an incredibly difficult time. They are very nervous about their future. They do not know what their future has in store. So the worst thing for Centre Alliance to do would be to make it more expensive to go to university. They could stop this bill. They could stop the Government's plans but they have chosen not to. They've chosen to team up with One Nation and the Liberals to make it harder and more expensive for young people in South Australia to go to university. They need to be held accountable and Labor will hold them accountable. This is unfair to so many young people and we will continue to stand up for South Australians to make sure that they get access to higher education and vocational education because that is their ticket to better-paying job. 
MURRAY WATT, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thanks very much Tanya. Well yet again today we see Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party sell out Queenslanders. Understandably there's a lot of attention today on the decision of Centre Alliance to back the Government. But sleeping in the corner is One Nation yet again doing a dodgy deal with the Morrison Government and the LNP. We've seen, ever since Pauline Hanson came back to the federal Parliament four or five years ago, we've seen her do deal after deal with the Morrison Government to sell out the very working-class Queenslanders who she claims to represent. She sold them out previously by doing deals with the LNP to cut apprenticeships, to cut pensions, to cut other sorts of Social Security benefits to the very core Queenslanders who she constantly says she is trying to protect and today we're seeing her do it again by backing in the LNP with their changes to universities that are going to rip more money out of unis and make university access harder for working-class Queenslanders. 
To just give you one example, the Central Queensland University has had to cut about 300 jobs in the last few months because of the funding cuts and other pressures that they are experiencing right now from the Morrison Government. Just last week, I was at the Bundaberg Campus of CQ University. They've cut 30 jobs just from that one individual campus, which is going to make it harder for kids in that area to get a decent education and for an institution of that size, that's a large number of jobs to be pulling out of regional communities. But as a result of this deal that she's done with the Government we'll be seeing more jobs disappear from regional universities and working-class Queenslanders finding it harder to get the education that they need, especially in today's tough times. 
Now, I can't help noticing that this is at the very same time that the LNP Queensland has done a preference deal with One Nation in the lead-up to the state election. Yesterday, it was announced that for the very first time the LNP are going to be preferencing One Nation ahead of Labor in every single seat in Queensland. And here we see the payoff. Pauline Hanson yet again lining up with the LNP and Scott Morrison to shaft the very working-class Queenslanders who she says that she represents. It's an absolute disgrace and it's another sell out from Pauline Hanson.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks very much. And I think it's probably also no coincidence that this is all happening on budget day. You've got Centre Alliance really hoping no one notices that they're teaming up with One Nation and the Liberals to make it harder and more expensive for kids to get an education. Any questions? 
JOURNALIST: Tanya, can I ask you how dangerous is it to push students into a certain degree and what does it mean for the universities that are focused on the Arts. Is that a dangerous thing to do? 
PLIBERSEK: So the Government claimed that these increasing prices will discourage people from studying in particular areas and really this whole the whole proposal is nonsense. First of all, they're trying to discourage humanities graduates. Humanities graduates have the same employment rate as science, technology, engineering and maths graduates, and they've got higher pay from graduation. So that bit of it's nonsense. Then the Government contribution to subjects like science, engineering, a range of the areas where they're trying to encourage people to go into, the Government’s actually dropping the amount that it pays per student for those subjects. So the whole the whole legislation is an absolute dog's breakfast. There is no one who believes this legislation will do what it says on the packet.
Julie Bishop, a former Liberal Education Minister, said this will not work to encourage people into science, technology, engineering and maths type degrees. It hasn't worked in the past when we discounted these areas because these kids have made their minds up. They're in year 12 this year. They would have had to decide months ago what they want to study next year. It's so frustrating to have a Government basically inventing all of these reasons to cover up what is in essence a billion-dollar cut every year to universities. The rest is just window dressing and the fact that Centre Alliance and One Nation fell for it, betraying students in the process. It's just such a disappointment.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese will be delivering the budget reply this week, will Labor be making any commitments for extra funding for university this week or in the near future?
PLIBERSEK: Well Anthony will be delivering the budget reply speech on Thursday and I know you'll be hanging out for that. It'll be a very exciting one.
JOURNALIST: The cut of the Government contribution from 58 to 52% though, is that something you would like to see reversed? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'd like to see it stopped right now and if One Nation and Centre Alliance were prepared to stand up and do the right thing for working-class kids, then it could be stopped. They are choosing to allow it to go through the parliament – this is a billion dollar cut to Government funding of universities. 
JOURNALIST: Obviously if you say year 12s would have already made their minds up on what they are studying after high school, do you see this having an effect on year 9s and 10s who will have to be deciding which stream they're going to start choosing for the second half of their schooling, given this signalling from the Government about where we want you to study and focus? 
PLIBERSEK:  The results are yet to be seen, but there's a very good chance that some kids will give up on the idea of university altogether. And there's the massive increase in the price of going to university for the humanities students, so they'll be paying $14,500 a year for their degrees, but 40% of all courses are going up in price. So there's a bunch of things like law, accounting, business that will also increase by thousands of dollars every year. I think it's very possible that some young people will give up on the idea of a university education altogether because they think to themselves, do I really want an American-sized university debt when I graduate? 
JOURNALIST: Centre Alliance say that they've secured thousands of extra places for South Australian students, that's a good thing isn't it? 
PLIBERSEK: (laughs) It's just bullshit, frankly. Because you cannot provide extra places when the package has a billion dollar cut to Government funding at its heart. This is simply charging some students much more to cover any extra places if they eventuate. We had the Government say a few years ago that they were going to provide 300,000 extra apprentice and trainee places. Have you seen have them? This Government is a master class in announcing extra places, extra funding, extra programs, that never ever hit the ground. Why would we believe them on extra places at university? They are the same people who by capping university funding a few years ago, ensured that 200,000 people miss out on a university degree. And now we have to take on trust that there'll be extra places. Where are the extra places in the legislation? It's not in the legislation, we've got to take the Government at its word.
This is a Government that has promised and failed to deliver 300,000 extra apprentices and trainee places. Promised and failed to deliver on infrastructure. Promised and failed to deliver on small business loans guarantees. Promised and failed to deliver in any number of areas. Why would we why would we believe them now, if there are extra places why aren't they in the legislation?
JOURNALIST: Will Labor seek to amend the legislation or support any other parties amendments, now it appears that blocking it’s not an option? 
PLIBERSEK: We'll see what it amendments are proposed. 
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)  
PLIBERSEK: I think this legislation is unsalvageable. How do you amend legislation that has at its heart more than doubling the cost of a degree for thousands of students, when that is exactly what Centre Alliance and One Nation have agreed to do today. How can we? I would like to see this legislation dispensed with entirely. I don't believe it's salvageable.