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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1039

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (15:44): I move:

That the Senate—

(a)   notes that:

   (i)   the quality of our higher education contributes to Australia’s social well-being and builds the skills and knowledge vital to our economic development and our place within the competitive global economy,

   (ii)   demand for higher education graduates is expected to be stronger than overall employment growth over the next decade,

   (iii)   Australian universities are being asked to significantly expand at a time when their income is increasingly uncertain, and when their dependence on international student fees to subsidise teaching and research is severely compromised with diminishing overseas student enrolments,

   (iv)   decades of decline in public university funding has driven up student to staff ratios, increased staff workloads and dated infrastructure,

   (v)   in Australia average base funding per student declined in real terms from 1994 to 2003, and had only increased in 2010 to the same level as in 1994, whilst the real value of the Commonwealth contribution per student remains well below the 1994 level,

   (vi)   in 2008 Australia’s expenditure on tertiary education was 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which equalled the Slovak Republic, fell well short of the Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development (OECD) 1 per cent average, and was lower than 25 out of 30 countries which spent more than Australia,

   (vii)   the 2011 Lomax-Smith Higher education base funding review stated it believed ‘an increased level of investment per student would be required to improve the quality of higher education teaching’ and to ‘maximise the sector’s potential to contribute to national productivity and economic growth’, and

   (viii)   the 2008 Bradley Review of Australian higher education recommended that the Australian Government increase the base funding for teaching and learning in higher education by 10 per cent; and

   (b)   calls on the Government to:

   (i)   immediately increase base funding for public universities by a minimum of 10 per cent in the 2012-13 federal budget,

   (ii)   position Australia ahead of the OECD average for public investment in higher education by steadily increasing investment from the current 0.7 per cent of GDP to beyond the OECD average of 1 per cent of GDP, to take Australia’s ranking from the bottom to the top of the OECD countries, and

   (iii)   not increase student contributions in proportion to any increases in government base funding.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that the motion moved by Senator Rhiannon be agreed to: