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More confusion and contradiction from Labor.

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DR BRENDAN NELSON Australian Government Minister for Education, Science and Training

Media Release


4 February 2004 MIN 602/04

Just two days after Mark Latham’s ‘thought bubble’ on school funding created uncertainty for Australia’s 3.3 million school children, Labor has now done the same for Australia’s higher education system.

Labor’s education spokesperson, Jenny Macklin, today told The Age newspaper:

“We already have legislation written and ready to go to reverse the 25 per cent fee hike and also to end full-fee paying places.” The Age, 4 Feb. 2004

Labor will take away institutions’ flexibility to determine their own course fees from $0 to a 25% maximum limit.

Australia’s universities argued for this policy to help improve quality and to give students greater choice.

Under Labor’s proposals, institutions like Macquarie University, which recently announced a decrease in HECS fees to $0 for advanced science units and up to 30% less for others, will be forced to reverse those decisions.

Labor’s proposal to deny universities the option of offering full-fee places will strip almost 10,000 places from the system.

Labor will allow foreign students to accept a fee-paying place at university but will deny Australian students the same opportunity.

Australian universities and their students have every reason to be concerned by Labor’s latest inconsistency on education policy.

Labor’s confusion is underlined by Mark Latham’s position which supports the very policy his party is now planning to unravel:

“Our universities will never be able to realise their potential without greater freedom and diversity. Governments of course cannot mandate or prescribe diversity...rather the Commonwealth needs to give the universities greater power of self direction and self governance.”

Mark Latham, The Enabling State - People before Bureaucracy, p. 54, Pluto Press, 2001

“Their fees would be deregulated, with the equity role of government pursued through publicly funded, means tested scholarships. This group might include universities such as Queensland, New South Wales, Macquarie, Melbourne, Monash, Adelaide and Western Australia.”

Mark Latham, The Network University, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Vol. 23, No.1. 2001

Australia’s universities deserve better than Labor’s muddled and confusing attempt at policy-making.

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