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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12280

Mr WHITELEY (Braddon) (16:18): The people opposite, they have no shame. I would not think the universities of this great country are normally on the side of the blue team, I would not think so, but right now every university in this country, bar one, is supporting this legislation, with some amendments. That is a fact.

What universities want is to see an end to the uncertainty of funding, and let me give you an example of what happened. When this lot over here, the Labor Party, took the reins of power in 2007, they undertook to make these great promises to the higher education sector to win great popularity and support. And what happened in that six years? That lot over there, the so-called supporters today of higher education, cut $6.6 billion out of higher education funding. They wanted to fund Gonski; where did they find the first $1.2 billion? Higher education. Let us have a look here. Removal of the 10 per cent HECS-HELP discount—I would have thought that would have been a huge help to lower socioeconomic people in this country—for a saving of $276 million, or what they would call a cut. Would you believe it? A cut from the Labor Party! Converting students' start-up scholarships—again, these are for people who need that little bit of help. They converted them into what? Student loans—$1.182 billion; $6.6 billion of cuts from that lot over there. They are hypocrites to the nth degree because those people over there claim that they are the friends of higher education. They are not. The universities of Australia are crying out for certainty. They want to get rid of the uncertainty and the ongoing argy-bargy of funding because they want to get on with educating our young people.

Let us get this right; it is very simple: higher education is the third biggest exporter in this country—$15 billion. Have a guess how much it was when this lot over here, the Labor Party, took power in 2007. It was $19 billion. We have already lost $4 billion because they took their eyes off the ball. All I can say is that the future of higher education under Labor in this country is totally unsustainable. We are already falling behind other competitive areas in the world, behind Asia. We are going to continue to see, if we do not make reforms, fewer and fewer people coming to this country to study. Do you know what that means over there, Labor? It means that the cross-subsidies that are going into the education of our children today will be lost and education fees will go through the roof—but that is under your vision, not ours.

The competition from Asia now is intense. We need to get back in the game and that is what the universities of Australia want; that is what they are asking for. And as I said when I started this speech, they are not normally on our team but on this occasion they are. They are rock-solid behind the education reform of the minister of this government, and that is what they are looking for. They are seeing you as nothing but cheap shooters; you are all about cheap shots, scaring the hell out of everybody across Australia with this $100,000 fee.

I know a little bit about American education, I have got family that are in it, and in this country grandparents do not have to give up their superannuation and their savings to help put their grandkids through university. Parents do not have to take mortgages against their homes to put their kids through university. That is the great thing about this country: no-one will have to come up with one cent of cash. It does not matter how rich or how poor you are, not one cent to enter the best universities in this country. And it is an absolutely dishonest campaign by that party over there, the Labor Party, who have lost their way; they have no vision. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should start telling the truth, and that should start with the Leader of the Opposition—I am not sure the last time I heard a straight sentence come out of his mouth.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Order! The discussion is concluded.