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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7149

Higher Education


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:00): My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. Yesterday I asked the minister a question about the following statement by the Prime Minister in parliament on Tuesday:

… the Commonwealth … will continue to cover 50 per cent of people's … education.

The minister responded by saying:

What the Prime Minister said is that the figure is an average.

Can he now confirm that the Prime Minister did not make that statement? Will the minister correct the record?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:00): The devastating point is this: I said 'average of 50 per cent'; the Prime Minister said 'to the tune of 50 per cent'. I stand corrected.


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:01): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Abetz, that is not the quote. You have misled the Senate again. Given the minister's failure to answer my question yesterday, I ask again: at which universities will students have to pay more than 50 per cent of the costs of their education, contrary to the Prime Minister's assurance?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:01): I invite Senator Carr to have a look at the comments of the Prime Minister on 23 September 2014 in relation to that exact quote that I just read out for his benefit and for anybody who might be listening. Let us keep in mind that those Australians who are given the benefit of a tertiary education are likely, as a result of that tertiary education, to earn $1 million more over their lifetime than those who are not blessed with a tertiary education. That tertiary education will nevertheless—we can talk 40, 50, 60—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. Senator Carr's question referred to which universities will students have to pay more than 50 per cent of their education. I have let it go. There are 16 seconds left.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Moore. Senator Carr did indicate a further statement he was referring to about yesterday's answer as well. Senator Abetz, you have 16 seconds left.

Senator ABETZ: The question is: how much should our fellow Australian taxpayers contribute to the education of those students who will then have the benefit of earning so much more—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Moore, and there were four seconds when you—

Senator Moore: There was when I got to my feet. Mr President, I have a point of order specifically on the question, which was: at which universities will the cost be more than 50 per cent? That was the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Moore. Senator Abetz, you have four seconds left to answer the question.

Senator ABETZ: Universities have not all set their fees as yet, and I answered that yesterday. (Time expired)









Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to the University of Western Australia's undergraduate fee schedule for 2016, which shows that the unweighted average Commonwealth contribution across all courses will be 31 per cent. Isn't it clear that the government's claimed Commonwealth contribution, even to the 'tune of 50 per cent', is a lie?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:04): No.