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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2536


Ms RISHWORTH (3:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Youth and Minister for Sport. Will the minister update the House on any further evidence of the need to secure the future of university student support services?

Opposition members interjecting—


Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Youth and Minister for Sport) —I thank the member for Kingston for both her question and her passionate advocacy on behalf of both students and universities. I note that those opposite, almost on cue, jump to the ideologically extreme battles of the past when we, on this side, are talking about a new and balanced way forward to rebuild services and amenities at our universities. We do this because we on this side know—and have long argued—that it is all students who are paying the price of the extreme legislation of the previous government. It just so happens that we do have new evidence to back this up. It is not just the students who are paying an extra $800 a year in child care at UTS, or those who are paying an extra $200 a year at Monash University, or those students who can no longer access sport, catering and welfare services. It is, in fact, all students who are paying the price of the previous government’s approach, because it affects efforts to deliver quality teaching and research, to reduce class sizes and to attract overseas students—which we know are all critical to sustaining Australia’s workforce and our future productivity and economic growth as a nation. I was asked for new evidence—


Mr Robert interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Fadden is warned.


Ms KATE ELLIS —I can report that last week, the chair of Universities Australia, Professor Richard Larkins, stated that the previous government’s legislation had:

… directly impaired our ability to deliver quality education and research …

He further stated:

We had to use money [set aside] for research and teaching and use it to support the student experience on campus.

These concerns, though, were further echoed by the University of Sydney when it said, in its submission to the Senate inquiry, that ‘the university has been forced to redirect university funds to support the student experience’. We have also heard from the Australian Technology Network of Universities that reduced services are a significant threat to the level of international enrolments. Those opposite are so engaged in the arguments of the past that just earlier today—

Opposition members interjecting—


Ms KATE ELLIS —No, I would like you to listen to this. Just earlier today, we had the member for Higgins, in his comeback speech—in his big contribution to parliamentary debate—put forward the argument that you should vote against this legislation—


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —I rise on a point of order. Yet one more minister needs to be brought to order on the question of relevance. If the answer to every question is Peter Costello, then I suggest that they are simply not being relevant.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Mackellar will resume her seat. There is no point of order.


Ms KATE ELLIS —I thank the member for Mackellar for that contribution.


The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will return to the question.


Ms KATE ELLIS —Thank you, Mr Speaker, I will do that now. My point about the outdated argument that those opposite were making is that the argument being put forward by the member for Higgins earlier today was that you should vote against this because in 1975 a now defunct organisation passed a number of resolutions which he thinks is the current argument to be reading to the House. In contrast, we are talking about a new system moving forward. As stated, we have also heard from the Australian Technology Network of Universities that reduced services are a significant threat to the level of international enrolments. So all of this hampers our ability to deliver world-class universities—all because those opposite went too far. Now, despite the evidence, they will not admit to the damage they have caused—so they are in denial and voting against it.

Can I also add that it is completely absurd and disingenuous for those opposite to shed crocodile tears over this capped and deferred $250 fee. We all know what you did when in government. We all got to see as, time and time again, you massively increased fees on students, you slashed support to students and you shifted the burden onto the shoulders of these same students. These same members opposite are now purporting to be so concerned about the financial plight of students that they voted against the $950 training and learning bonus to be delivered to all eligible students. I think we can all see the hypocrisy on show there. In contrast, we are taking action. We are proposing—


Mr Anthony Smith —I rise on a point of order. It would save the House time if the minister just tabled her essay.


The SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The member for Casey will resume his seat.


Mr Albanese —Bronwyn’s was better!


Ms KATE ELLIS —Yes, we preferred the member for Mackellar’s contribution, but thank you. In contrast we are taking action. We have delivered a new system. We are looking forward, and the opposition should get on board and do the same because it is critical to securing the future of our universities and the contribution that they make to our economy.