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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20144

Ms MACKLIN (3:17 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware that the submission from La Trobe University to the Senate inquiry into the government's unfair university changes states that the plan to phase out overenrolments without creating enough fully funded growth places to replace them will `force universities into a massive reduction in initial intakes for the coming years'? Minister, isn't it true that the Howard government's changes will mean fewer HECS places for university applicants over the next three years? What should I tell my constituents whose children will miss out on a university place next year because the government's policies will result in fewer publicly funded places at university at the time their children finish school?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for the question. I should re-state that this government is reforming Australian higher education. This is a responsibility that the government is determined to discharge for the next generation. It includes $1½ billion of additional public investment in the first four years. La Trobe University will receive directly more than $15 million just in core grant funding in the first three years alone. The government is moving to fully fund more than 25,000 overenrolled places in the sector. The specific places that are overenrolled in universities that will be funded will be the product of negotiation between the Australian government, and in this case, the Victorian government, and the universities that are involved. The one thing that La Trobe University needs to understand, as should this House, is that, should the Leader of the Opposition succeed in his quest to become the Prime Minister of Australia, he and his Treasurer, the member for Werriwa—there's a thought!—will be met by the head of the Department of Finance and Administration who, having given the taxpayers' chequebook to the member for Werriwa, will then say, `The first thing you need to do is write a cheque for $300 million because that is the extent to which the Labor Party has underfunded—according to the department of finance—its own higher education policy.'

La Trobe University alone will lose almost $7 million if the Labor Party gets into government unless it finds another $300 million to fill the black hole. It should be enough that Labor is taxing the mining industry and working Australians to put more money into higher education—not to mention running loan schemes for some of the poorest people in the country to send them broke. The Labor Party needs to do what the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong said—that is, support the package. If the Labor Party does not support this package—as Professor Gerard Sutton said—there will be a genuine crisis in Australian higher education.