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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22716

Mr BARTLETT (3:02 PM) —My question is also addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister inform the House of the implications for our universities if the Senate does not pass the government's $1.5 billion reform package? Is the minister aware of other comments or statements in this area?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Macquarie for his question. He shows a very strong commitment to Australian education and to university education in particular. We as Australians need to understand that, unless we undertake reform and change now, well within a decade and probably as early as within five years Australian universities will have sunk below the watermark of mediocrity. That is not something that I say lightly as Australia's Minister for Education, Science and Training; but it is absolutely critical that the Australian parliament pass the legislation for reform to enable us to invest significantly more resources of public money into Australian universities and to allow us to change the way in which universities are currently regulated and administered.

If the reforms are not passed this year—and the Labor Party is doing everything it possibly can to see that they are not—then, in the first instance, 450 places will not be available in universities next year and $70 million of additional money will not be available immediately to universities. That means 210 regional nursing places and 234 medical places—and here is the Labor Party attacking the Minister for Health and Ageing about MedicarePlus at the same time that it is trying to actually stop this government creating more nursing places where we really need them, out in regional Australia, and supporting more doctors being trained for outer suburbs. Try and tell the member for Canning and the Peel region about the nurses that will not be there at Murdoch University.

Here are the people that say they drive the social justice truck but, at the same time, as a result of Labor Party obstruction, 4,000 low-income students will not get scholarships to help them with their living and accommodation expenses next year. They cannot even cost their own policy correctly and then they want to oppose what the government is trying to do to build Australia's future. We will strengthen this country's future—we are determined to see these reforms through, and the Labor Party ought to get out of the way.