REMARKS TO CAUCUS
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER 2014
Thanks colleagues, for coming at short notice to this convened caucus meeting. The matter was very important. Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott were defeated in the Senate last night in their unfair changes.
And much to the surprise I think of Australians, Christopher Pyne has popped his head up again this morning and said that it’s only a flesh wound, that he is ready for round 2.
But then what he’s done, because we know this is a Government adrift and in disarray. We thought their previous week was a bad week. This week is proving to be a shocker.
He used as his excuse why they had to gag the debate this morning on higher education, he said that that will give us eight weeks to review his new legislation. His scraps from the table.
This meeting has been convened because I believe that the Labor caucus, on behalf of millions of Australians, do not need eight weeks to review these rotten offerings, these unfair proposals of $100,000 degrees. We are ready to vote now on that debate.
Labor will never support $100,000 degrees. Labor will never support Tony Abbott's plan to burden Australia's present and future generations of students with a debt sentence.
Now we've seen the reports that this legislation is in fact having the same problems. The Minister for Education has confirmed on AM that his new bill will still have - I use the word ‘new’ advisedly - will still have a 20 per cent cut to the funding of universities. It will have deregulation at its core.
Senator Lazarus from the Senate crossbench has said on doors – he said a lot actually, about Minister Pyne – but he said this morning on the doors that he won't consider the new bill if it contains a 20 per cent cut and deregulation, which exactly what it considers.
The Member for Fairfax has said that ‘we will never vote for the education bill which privatises higher education’.
Senator Xenophon has said the primary reason he don't vote for the first bill was because Tony Abbott promised before the election that he wouldn't change the current arrangements of university funding and he didn't take his plans to the election. So he says that the new bill faces the same obstacle.
There are already the votes to defeat the new legislation.
Universities Australia, having been verballed ruthlessly by the Abbott Government, is still unhappy because they say at its core it contains a 20 per cent cut and the transition funds are hundreds of millions of dollars shy of what they even think could begin to band-aid this debacle.
What we also know is that it will require more than window dressing, furious texting, demon dialling by the Minister for Education.
These proposals before the House, be they the previous ones or the threatened new ones, are irredeemable and they are unfair. And forcing Senator Lazarus to change his telephone number does not change the legislation.
Christopher Pyne cannot text his way out of the humiliation, because it's bad for Australia and it's bad for Australian students.
I noticed that the Government Education Minister has been doing the rounds this morning, popping his head up in front of any microphone which would stand still long enough to hear his thoughts. He is not the reset that the Government needs in higher education. It is the policies of the Government which are unfair.
We should be reaching for higher ground in this country. We should be seeking to be a more skilful and a smarter nation.
We do not need $100,000 degrees which discriminate in particular against women students, mature-age students, people from the bush. We do not need to go down the path of the United States in terms of higher education, where a parent's income is almost a perfect predictor of whether or not a child can go to university.
We believe everyone deserves their chance to fulfil their potential.
We believe in preparing Australian people for future, not making it harder for them to get a degree.
We believe in a positive plan for higher education.
I welcome Senator Carr along with his Assistant Minister Amanda Rishworth who've been doing an excellent job in combatting this unfairness in the Parliament.
And we will seek, unlike Tony Abbott, a mandate at an election for sustainable future for higher education.
The Minister for Education has traipsed through the media quoting, styling himself on Winston Churchill.
Can I on behalf of the caucus just say this to him and the Government: Labor will fight these changes to higher education. We shall fight them in the Parliament, we shall fight them in the community. We shall fight for opportunity. We shall fight for a fair university system and we shall never surrender.
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