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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10314

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (18:42): In rising to support this amendment, which makes a bad bill just a little bit better, I want to note the government's utter contempt for democracy that they would gag this very important debate and prevent the Greens and other members from the opposition from speaking, because they are trying to hide the fact that they are ripping billions of dollars out of our university system. Government, you might not like what the Greens have to say in standing up for students in universities, but at least give us a chance to say it. What have you got to hide that you want to gag this debate? What you're trying to hide is the fact that universities in this country are underfunded and are in need of support, and students are struggling under enormous debt. What this government is trying to do, so that it can fund a corporate tax cut to the big end of town, is to put students into even more debt and place the burden on universities.

And where's the money going to come from out of universities' pockets? We know, because just recently one university, the university that I went to, decided to cut the wages of all its staff by terminating their enterprise agreement, and then the minister got up and said he encouraged every other university in the country to do exactly the same. So this government wants to get some of its $3.8 billion of savings from the pockets of students and the rest of it from the pockets of staff members, putting an already stretched system under even further stress.

What we know is that universities in this country have been underfunded for a long time. We saw that with the Bradley review, which said we need a 10 per cent increase in base funding. Then what happens every time the budget comes around is that we see governments dipping into universities and students to try to balance it. A number of us were here and remember when in the last Labor government, to try to fund the Gonski reforms, the Labor Party cut $2.3 billion out of universities. We saw it with the Abbott government in their first budget here, and now we're seeing a sneaky second attempt to get it back. No wonder this government is trying to hide what it is doing by gagging debate and stopping proper scrutiny from being brought to bear on it. We should not be supporting bills that are being gagged through this place. The Greens will continue to stand up for students and universities.

There are much better ways of balancing the budget than taking the axe to students and taking the axe to universities. If the government wants to look for a place to start balancing the budget, perhaps it shouldn't give $50 billion in tax cuts to the big end of town. When you give $7 billion of tax cuts to the big banks, they're not going to use it to create more jobs; that is going straight to their bottom line, straight into profits. If this government seriously thinks that universities and students should find themselves almost $4 billion worse off to help with a $7 billion tax cut to the big banks then it is no wonder that they are falling behind in the polls.

The sooner that we can kick this rotten government out, the sooner many students will breathe a sigh of relief and the sooner we can get on to holding the next government to account and make sure we properly fund universities and students, so that students can study properly, without having to put themselves into further debt.