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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9379

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (13:33): 'Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.' This is what the Tory statesman Benjamin Disraeli told the House of Commons in 1874. In its approach to higher education reforms, the coalition government would do well to consider this principle. Instead of its destructive $5 billion slash-and-burn approach to higher education and to the Public Service in general, the government should be safeguarding and investing in the education of all Australians. As Gough Whitlam said in 1969:

When government makes opportunities for any of the citizens, it makes them for all the citizens. We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor. Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer—a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.

Recently I visited Curtin and Murdoch universities in Western Australia with the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and Amanda Rishworth, shadow assistant minister for higher education. We spoke to students who are deeply disturbed by the proposed changes and fear that the government will take us down the path that has failed so badly in the US, as attested to by US Nobel economics laureate, Joseph Stiglitz. The government's proposal to deregulate universities, to saddle students with higher debt and to shrink the Commonwealth contribution to tuition costs is short-sighted, unfair and counterproductive as it will reduce both equity and productivity.