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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1630

Higher Education

Mr WILSON (O'Connor) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. How is the government getting on with the job of creating world-class universities in Australia and spreading the benefits of higher education to more Australians, including those in my electorate of O'Connor? How have the government's reforms been received in the sector and what stands in their way?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education and Training) (14:29): I am very glad to get a question from the member on education reform because I can tell him that the government's plan is to give universities the chance to be the best higher education system in the world with some of the best universities in the world. The alternative to the government's plan on higher education is a slow decline into mediocrity, not according to me but according to the university sector itself. It has said it will lead simply to stagnation.

On the other hand, the government's reforms will benefit students. They will spread opportunity to more Australians to get the benefits of higher education—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Moreton will leave under standing order 94(a).

The member for Moreton then left the chamber.

Mr PYNE: through the largest scholarship scheme the country has ever seen, by expanding the demand of the system to sub-bachelor courses such as diplomas and associate degrees and by giving non-university higher education providers the opportunity to access the Commonwealth Grant Scheme for the first time ever, so giving at least 80,000 more students an opportunity to go to university.

This is not just supported by 40 of 41 vice-chancellors around Australia; it is also supported by a large number of Labor figures from when the Labor Party used to stand for something in policy terms. People like John Dawkins, Gareth Evans, Maxine McKew and academics like Peter Noonan, David Phillips and Bruce Chapman, the father of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, are urging the Labor Party to get involved in the national conversation and be part of a reform agenda to deliver benefits to students and universities.

The alternative to the government's policy has been revealed by the shadow minister, Senator Kim Carr, in recent speeches but also last year in October. The alternative to the government's program is to bring back 'Moscow on the Molonglo', which used to exist in this country when ministers and bureaucrats decided on how many students there were in courses and how many students there were in universities. 'Moscow on the Molonglo' was always what Kim Carr wanted. He never supported Julia Gillard's far-reaching reforms to bring in a demand driven system. Last year, on 9 October, Senator Carr said:

The demand driven system is for a finite period. It was not indefinite; it was for a finite period until the targets were met. The targets have largely been met …

Universities need to know that the cat is out of the bag on Labor's proposal for higher education. It would mean bringing back the caps, which would force low-SES students out of university. Ironically, this side of the House wants more first-generation university goers and low-SES students to go to uni. Senator Carr wants to shut off the faucet and have fewer students going to university.