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Budget 2018: Union claims Turnbull Government chasing votes rather than investing in Australia's future



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Union claims Turnbull Government chasing votes rather than investing in Australia’s future

The 2018-19 Federal Budget has exposed a Coalition government motivated by political self-preservation rather than promoting future social and economic prosperity according to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

“The unanticipated increase in government revenue could have been used to reverse their decision to freeze public investment in future university education and training. The Turnbull government has instead chosen to use this windfall to try to buy an election victory through tax cuts and cynically targeted spending,” Jeannie Rea, National President of the NTEU said.

“The cost to the Budget of the tax cuts, which will only deliver a modest maximum of $530 a year or about $10 a week for low to middle income earners, will cost something in the order of $13 billion over the forward estimates.

“Some of this money could have been more productively used to invest in Australia’s future by, for example, reversing the university funding freeze and increasing the real level of investment in our public universities and TAFEs, abandoning the policy to reduce the income threshold on HELP debts, and raising the real value of student income and job search support.

“A Universities Australia commissioned report released on Monday this week highlights the short-sightedness of the government’s approach to higher education. It shows that the freeze on university funding (announced as part of the 2017-18 MYEFO) means tens of thousands of eligible students will miss out on a university, which equals lost productivity and somewhere between $150,00 and $470,000 in lost income tax revenue for each lost graduate. Over 20 years this equates to somewhere between $7billion and $13billion in lost national output or GDP.

“Also, if the government was genuinely concerned about the financial pressure being felt by low and middle income earners, it would not be trying to lower the income threshold from $55,000 to $45,000 pa for repayment of Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) debt. (2017-18 MYEFO).

“Lowering the HELP income threshold would mean that anyone with a HELP debt and taxable income of between $45,000 and $55,000 would be required to pay $450 to $1,100 per year in HELP repayments, more than wiping out the benefits of the tax cuts.”

The Budget does contain some positive news for higher education. It confirms earlier announcements of additional funding for student places for the University of Tasmania (an additional $41m in for sub-degree places), the University of the Sunshine Coast ($69m for new Petrie campus) and Southern Cross University ($14m).

In response to Halsey review of regional and rural education the government is also providing $96million to additional support for young Australians from regional and remote Australia to participate in tertiary education.

“But overwhelmingly the 2018 Budget is a lost opportunity for our universities. Instead of investing in higher education for all Australians, the Turnbull government has chosen to chase votes by targeting additional places and funding for universities, which, purely by chance no doubt, happen to have campuses in highly marginal Federal electorates,” Rea concluded.

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For further information or comment please contact:

Jeannie Rea, National President, 0434 609 531

Paul Kniest, Policy and Research Coordinator, 0418 170 622