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Transcript of doorstop: Canberra: Wednesday, 5 December 2003: ALP leadership ballot, higher education legislation and the increase in interest rates.

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Transcript Jenny Macklin MP


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



Subjects: ALP Leadership Ballot, Higher Education Legislation and the increase in

interest rates.

MACKLIN: First of all I want to congratulate Mark Latham on his election as the new leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and to offer him my full support. I think we’ll make a great team and I certainly look forward to working with him on the priorities that he’s outlined, the policy priorities that he’s outlined and I think we will certainly be able to make sure that we get our message across very clearly.

I just want to say a few other words about higher education and then throw it over to you, what I’d say to the Government is it’s time to bring the debate on higher education into the Senate. The Government has wasted far too much time getting this legislation before the Senate. We need the debate to begin. There are a number of issues, which as far as the Labor Party is concerned, still need significant change. The Government is still determined to increase student fees by 25 per cent and what that means in reality for Australian students, on average for a basic degree, is increase fees of about $ 4,000. So a basic science degree will still cost over $20,000. As far as Labor goes we will not accept that sort of increase to student fees. We do not want Australian students to be paying more and more to go to university.

We also will not accept 35 per cent of Australian students being able to take places that are full fee paying places. I don’t know any parent that thinks it’s okay to pay $100,000 for a university degree and I certainly don’t know many students who think it’s okay for students to be able to jump the queue if they’ve got money ahead of other students who’ve got better marks. So as far as Labor’s concerned we will not accept student fees going up by another 25 per cent. We will not accept students having to pay $20,000 for a university degree and I call on the Senate to really get tough with the Government and say students are already paying enough we do not want them to have higher and higher and debt.

Just today we’ve had the Reserve Bank increase interest rates. That means on average an additional $30 a month for the average mortgage payer. Imagine what it’s like for young people having to try and pay off a mortgage with increasing interest rates and also face very high university fees, increased debts of another $4,000. It’s just going to put home ownership out of the reach of Australian young people.

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JOURNALIST: Will you be staying on as Deputy Leader of the Labor Party?

MACKLIN: I certainly will. There was no vote for the Deputy Leadership and I have very strong support in the Caucus.

JOURNALIST: The Government’s yet to back down and offer new money to the University of Western Sydney, Victoria, South Australia, will you be insisting that the independent Senators … (Inaudible).

MACKLIN: Yes we will. Labor will be moving amendments, in fact, to make sure that those universities do not lose as the result of this legislation. We want to make sure that all universities get increased funding. Labor will be moving to index the amount of money that universities get from the Federal Government to make sure that the amounts they get in grants keep up with the cost of running universities. Under Labor’s plan there will be no universities that lose funding.

JOURNALIST: You’re sounding pretty concerned that the Independents are actually going to pass it this session.

MACKLIN: Well there’s been continuing negotiations with the Independents. They’ve obviously been keen to do the best they possibly can. But what I would say to all Senators is don’t load Australian students up with more and more debt. Our students are already paying the fourth highest fees in the western world. We do not want to be paying the highest fees in the developed world - we want our students to be able to afford to go to university. So I say to the Senators think again about university fees and make sure students aren’t loaded up with more and more debt.

JOURNALIST: What’s the rush Ms Macklin, if you’re pretty keen to see all this knocked off why the hurry to get it back in?

MACKLIN: Because we want to be clear about what’s going to happen to universities. The universities certainly want some clarity about what’s going to happen. We want to make sure the universities do get increased public funding. Labor will be moving amendments to increase public funding to universities. We would like the Senate to agree to those amendments to make sure that the universities get the funding they need and to make sure that students don’t have to pay higher fees.

JOURNALIST: …announced last week the $200 million actually comes over five years - do you think that’s enough for 38 publicly funded universities?

MACKLIN: It’s nowhere near enough. Those universities are really only going to get a little bit each from that additional funding which the Government’s made available. Labor is saying that universities need a very significant increase in public funding. Australian students are already paying a very significant contribution and we don’t want them to pay any more. We’ve shown how we can, from the public purse, pay universities the money that they need. The Government can afford it - they should pick up Labor’s policy and give that increased public funding to universities.

JOUNALIST: Have you been guaranteed by Mark, or been given a guarantee by Mark Latham that you will be staying on as Deputy?

MACKLIN: Well that’s a decision for the Caucus. Mark’s very happy, of course, that I am the Deputy. We respect, of course, the decisions of the Caucus. We will work together as, I think, a very effective team. I’m certainly very happy to work with him and I’m sure it’s likewise.

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JOURNALIST: Are you reassured by his commitment this morning that people who voted for Kim Beazley like you and Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan will be keeping their portfolios - in terms what it means for party unity?

MACKLIN: What I think is terrific is the way in which Mark has said we need to move forward and I think that’s absolutely right. We need to move forward as a party, we continue to need to move forward with our ideas. I’m certainly happy to be a very significant part of that with him and I look forward to that.

JOURNALIST: Will there be any change at all in your stance on the higher education package under Mr Latham?

MACKLIN: I wouldn’t think so, no. We have Caucus decision. Our policy has been out there since July, it’s a very strong policy receiving very strong support from the Australian community. There are a couple of groups that I think it’s time the Howard Government started listening to - and that’s parents and young people who want to go to university. Parents do not want to see their children loaded up with more and more debt. Young people want to be able to get a university place - the Howard Government is not providing enough places. Next year we’re going to see thousands of students who can’t get into university and it’s only Labor’s policy that will fix that.

JOURNALIST: Is there a level of fee increase that Labor would support?

MACKLIN: No, we think Australian students are already paying enough and we will not support any increase in student fees.


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