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Universities still tied up and at Dr Nelson's mercy.



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Media Release Jenny MacklinMP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Education & Training Federal Member for Jagajaga

UNIVERSITIES STILL TIED UP AND AT DR NELSON’S MERCY

The amendments to the Higher Education Support Bill 2003 foreshadowed today by the Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, fall a long way short of what is required.

Brendan Nelson has not cut the red tape he bound universities up in. They are still tied up and at his mercy.

The changes merely tinker at the edges of a flawed, shoddy and unfair Bill. Brendan Nelson will need to do a lot more than just make technical changes at the margins for this Bill to be acceptable. The foreshadowed amendments avoid the fundamental problems with the Bill.

The proposed changes would not stop the 30 per cent price hike in HECS; doubling the number of $100,000 full fee degrees; or address the 20,000 qualified applicants who are turned away each year.

The Minister has announced today that he will listen to universities but he will still be able to dictate what courses they teach. He hasn’t relinquished any of the powers contained in the Bill before the Senate.

The Bill remains authoritarian to its core and gives the Minister unprecedented powers over what universities teach or students learn.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Professor Gilbert, likened Brendan Nelson’s changes to those of “authoritarian regimes that fear strong, independent universities” and warned that “giving that sort of power to a minister in perpetuity is a real disaster.”

The Minister can still starve universities of funds if he disagrees with the content of their courses and there is nothing to prevent him making some courses 100 per cent full fee paying.

The link between $404 million in funding and the Government’s industrial relations agenda has not been removed.

There is no relief for the University of Western Sydney, Victoria University, Victorian College of the Arts and Australian Maritime College which all face serious funding cuts because of the Howard Government’s unfair university changes.

Media Contact: Caroline Turnour 0408 473 278 November 18 2003