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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12248

Higher Education

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (14:23): My question to the Minister for Education: would the minister inform the House how the government's higher education reforms will improve the quality of Australian universities and spread opportunity to more young Australians?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:23): I thank the member for Bowman for his question. I know that he supports the government's higher education reform because of the opportunity that will be created for at least 80,000 more young Australians to go to university between now and 2018, and 80,000 every year from that year onwards because of our higher education reforms.

I also thank him because it gives me the opportunity to amplify the support that the government has received today and over many weeks from the university sector for a reform that will have very far-reaching implications for the quality of universities and for the capacity of our universities to compete, particularly with their Asian competitors, and to give more young Australians the opportunity to go on and get a higher education qualification.

Today, writing in The Australian the vice-chancellors of La Trobe University and Melbourne University, John Dewar and Glyn Davis, gave very strong support for the government's higher education reforms. They actually wrote:

This is a crucial week for Australia. At stake is whether a viable higher education system can endure. Though much rhetoric focuses on the Whitlam promise of free higher education, the present system was established by the Hawke government from 1989. It abandoned a brief experiment with free places as inequitable.

They go on to say:

Leaving the present settings in place is bad policy with worrying implications.

The sector needs the sort of fundamental funding reform being proposed to the Senate this week.

There is very strong support in the university sector and from all those with knowledge about education for the reforms the government are proposing because we must get more revenue into the university system. The taxpayers cannot be squeezed anymore. These reforms will give students a fifty-fifty share with the taxpayer of the cost of their education. Right now students are paying 40 per cent and the taxpayers are paying 60 per cent. These reforms will deliver a fifty-fifty split between taxpayer and student, but also they will expand the Commonwealth Grants Scheme to the non-university higher education providers. They will expand the demand-driven system to the sub bachelor degrees, giving 80,000 more Australians the opportunity to get a higher education qualification. It will establish the largest Commonwealth scholarships fund in Australia's history.

We saw yesterday the University of Sydney announce that they would go from 700 to 9,000 Commonwealth scholarships if these reforms are passed, and that is just the beginning. Working with the Senate crossbenchers and with the Palmer United Party we will be able to achieve free education for tens of thousands of young Australians to go to university for the first time.