By Tanya Plibersek

26 August 2020



SUBJECT: JobReady Legislation.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: The Government will be introducing higher education legislation today and what's so very disappointing about this universities package is that all the Government is doing is making it harder and more expensive to go to university.
You can't trust this government with universities because all they ever do is cut university funding and make it harder for kids to get a university education. We've got massive youth unemployment at the moment. Young people are joining the dole queue. Instead of joining the dole queue, wouldn't it be great if they could get an education. What sort of government would rather see young people join the dole queue than get an education. Yet this university package makes it harder and more expensive for young Australians to go to uni.
We've got the Minister out there boasting that he's made some changes because of the National Party. In fact, he is still cutting billions of dollars from university funding. He's still making it thousands of dollars more expensive for individual students to get a university degree. It just makes no sense at a time when the choice for young people is joining the dole queue or getting an education that will help them get a job in the future. This is a government that’s cut funding to schools, cut funding to TAFE and cut funding to universities - making it harder for kids to get an education. Think about those students who finish year 12 this year. They've had their education disrupted by remote learning and they've struggled in the lead-up to their exams with all of the uncertainty of second outbreaks in Victoria, remote learning during the year. Those young people don't deserve to have a university education snatched out of their hands by a government that's making it more competitive to get into a course and more expensive if you do. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Is it, I guess, confusing that there have been so many criticisms from domestic sector about how this funding will work and how it will actually affect the university experience, I guess, but the Government is still pushing on with their original plan more or less?
PLIBERSEK: Well, this proposal is absolutely friendless. Nobody supports it. Obviously students don't support it because the Government is making it harder and more expensive to get a degree. Universities don't support it - they're losing funding, but the business organisations don't support it either. The business groups are saying “when the economy recovers, we will need trained and educated staff as a precondition of recovery”. So the business groups don't support it. The professional associations - the social workers, the psychologists, the engineers - they don't support. They’re saying that it will be harder for people to train to join their field. It's an absolutely friendless proposal and I think the reason the Government is talking so much about the confusing detail of this proposal is they want to draw attention away from what's at the centre of this package. What's at the centre of this package is close to a billion dollars of cuts. Meaning that universities will have less funding to teach each student. On average students will pay more, on average universities will get less for every student they teach. 
JOURNALIST: So how is it meant to be feasible, I guess at this point? It's like some of the universities have cut staff or cut resources because of the fact that not a lot of them can get JobKeeper. Like you say, students just pay more, universities will get less. Isn't that kind of a bit of a weird sort of contrast or parallel? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, what's weird about it - your question is "is this weird?". What's weird about it is we've got a government that knows that young people are joining the unemployment queue. Thousands every month joining the dole queue and they would rather than join the dole queue then get an education. We would rather see them go to TAFE or go to university then join the dole queue. The Government is doing the exact opposite. We've lost a 140,000 trainees and apprentices on their watch and now they're making it harder and more expensive to get a university education. Thousands of university staff have already lost their jobs. You've asked about staff - thousands of university staff have already lost their jobs. Universities Australia estimates another 21,000 staff will lose their jobs - permanent staff. There is an untold number of casuals that have lost their jobs. Now, these are the people who right now have been doing the research to help us find a cure or a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19. They're the people who are training our next generation of nurses and doctors and epidemiologists. They're losing their jobs because of a lack of government support. This comes on top of the fact that this government has three times changed JobKeeper legislation to make sure universities aren't eligible. They've deliberately excluded universities. Any company out there that's the size of the university can get JobKeeper but not universities. Our publicly funded institutions have been denied JobKeeper. This comes on top of the billions of dollars that have been lost in international student revenue that has smashed research in universities. That funding funds research in universities. That's being smashed. So we losing tutors, we're losing professors, we're losing scientists in laboratories, but we're also losing groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, librarians, shelf stackers, admin staff and when you take those jobs out of regional communities it hits regional communities very hard.
JOURNALIST: How come staff at many universities have lost their job? You mentioned the Government hasn't extended JobKeeper to those universities. Should that be extended - I guess you are going to say yes but if not should it be subsidised for the university sector to keep those staff around? 
PLIBERSEK: We have said all along that universities should be part of the JobKeeper package. Absolutely university staff should have been protected from this smash on university revenue that's been the denial of JobKeeper, the loss of international students and now a new package that cuts billions of dollars more from universities. Those university staff don't deserve the way they have been treated by this government, but you know at the end of the day who suffers? Students will suffer because it's going to be harder and more expensive for them to get an education, and our economy as a whole will suffer because an educated highly skilled workforce is a critical precondition of our recovery. Thanks.