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The Bulletin magazine (June 3): "Where on earth is Labor's blueprint for universities?"

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19 June, 2003 MIN381/03

Eight months ago Labor said its higher education policy was on the way:

Reporter: The talk is fine, but the concrete ideas when will we see those?

Jenny Macklin: Well you’ll see them progressively over the next twelve months or so. Channel Seven, 27 October 2002

By late May nothing had changed:

Labor would release its alternative higher education package in coming weeks. Jenny Macklin speaking to the Advertiser Newspaper, 27 May 2003

Mid June brought more of the same:

"What I’ll be doing in coming weeks is to lay out the blueprint in terms of education." Simon Crean, Doorstop, Uni of Western Sydney, June 11 2003

Four days later Simon Crean was telling the Sunday program his higher eduation policy was "a work in progress":

Simon Crean: Well it’s a continuing piece of work.

Reporter: Do we ever see anything from it?

Simon Crean: Of course you do, because its timetable was always in the context of the national conference.

Reporter: But no one seems to know where it is?

Simon Crean: Well I know where it is.

Reporter: Can you tell me where it is? You say you know where it is, where is it?

Simon Crean: It’s a work in progress.

Channel Nine Sunday Program, 15 June 2003

Yesterday Labor was still stalling:

Reporter: When do you plan to launch your policies?

Jenny Macklin: Soon.

Reporter: How soon?

Macklin: You’ll have to wait and see.

Jenny Macklin, Doorstop, Parliament House, 18 June 2003

When will Labor deliver a policy?

Labor’s last attempt at an education policy was comprehensively discredited.

Kenneth Davidson says Labor’s original Knowledge Nation was a ‘sham’:

"Beazley ensured his 2001 election policy centrepiece - the Knowledge Nation - was a sham. There was no money to finance the ambitious programme in the first three years of a Beazley Government…" Kenneth Davidson, The Age, 28 April 2003

Knowledge Nation’s chief architect Barry Jones now admits it wasn’t even an education document.

"Our first priority was not education." Barry Jones, Letter to the Editor, The Australian, 14 June, 2003

There is every sign Labor plans to repeat its mistakes and release another policy ‘sham’.

Thus far Labor has promised that it will axe the 9400 full fee paying places in Australian universities. Labor will need to replace the universities’ lost revenue:

Estimated cost = $70 million

Presumably Labor plans to fund 9,400 fully funded HECS places to replace the fee-paying places:

Estimated cost =$112 million

Labor supports the Government’s plan to replace 25,000 overenrolled places with fully funded places:

Estimated cost = $348 million

Labor’s Education spokesperson has repeatedly asserted that Labor will create 50,000 new HECS places: "The idea that there are 50,000 students around Australia who can’t get into university

because there isn’t a place, I think is a shocking waste." Jenny Macklin, Radio 97.3, 3 Sept, 2002

Estimated cost = $600 million

Total = $1.1 BILLION

In addition Labor claims it will be pumping more money into research and youth support.

At the same time it will not offer universities the opportunity to determine their own fees within limits (an option sought by Vice Chancellors).

Labor’s policy position was summarised by Ross Gittins:

Without convictions it’s easy to craft populist policies that offend no one…On Higher Education it (Labor) also wants more money spent, but opposes increased reliance on user charges. So does that mean Labor would increase general taxation to square the circle? Gosh no… So is Labor prepared to nominate significant spending cuts? Gosh no.

Ross Gittins, The Sydney Morning Herald Monday, June 16, 2003

Media Contact:

Dr Nelson’s Office: Ross Hampton 0419 484 095