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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2785

Budget


Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:13): My question is to the Minister for Science and Research and the Minister representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Farrell. Does the minister agree with the Prime Minister when she said in February 2010:

If we are serious about the future, if we are serious about modernising the Australian economy, strengthening Australian communities and improving the lives of Australian families then we have to be serious about lifting the capacity and the performance of Australia's universities.

If so, why has the government decided to rip $2.3 billion out of the higher education budget?

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my right! The time for debating the issue is after question time. The Minister for Science and Research and the Minister representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research has the call.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaMinister for Science and Research and Minister Assisting on Tourism) (14:14): Thank you for the question. The short answer is: yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister, because that is in fact what we are doing. This government is committed to a strong university system and to ensuring that no Australian student is left behind. It is true that the government has announced a two per cent efficiency dividend in the year 2014 and a 1.5 per cent efficiency dividend in the year 2015 on university funding. This efficiency dividend will help fund A National Plan for School Improvement, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to properly resource Australian classrooms, teachers and schoolchildren. Despite the efficiency dividend, real funding—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator FARRELL: Listen to this—despite the efficiency dividend, real funding per student is still projected to increase to over $18,100 in 2017. Under Labor, funding for students to go to university has increased by 75 per cent—

Senator Mason: Not per student, Don.

Senator FARRELL: No, not per student. It has increased from $3.5 billion when you left government to $6.1 billion in this year. As a result of the record funding, 190,000 more students are now going to university compared to when you were in government. That is about the number of people in the town of Townsville. (Time expired)

Senator Bernardi interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am waiting to give Senator Mason the call. He is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator Bernardi interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bernardi, I am waiting to call your colleague, who is sitting directly in front of you. Senator Mason deserves to be heard in silence.







Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of the Prime Minister's views on education stated in her 30 January 2013 National Press Club address, where the Prime Minister said:

I believe in this as a moral cause—a crusade—but I also believe that our future prosperity is inextricably linked to us winning the education race.

I will fight to get this done.

Having slashed higher ed by $3.3 billion, or five per cent, over six months, how could the Prime Minister possibly claim this?


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaMinister for Science and Research and Minister Assisting on Tourism) (14:17): Thank you for that question. The fact of the matter is that real funding per student has increased under the Labor government and will continue to increase after the efficiency dividend has been taken into account. In 2007, real funding per student was $16,147. In 2012, it was $17,659. With the efficiency dividend taken into account, real funding—this is after you have taken out inflation—per student is projected to exceed $18,000 in 2017. This will be a real funding increase in excess of 10 per cent. The suggestion that you should only look at one funding source is fanciful and is out of touch with reality. (Time expired)


Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:18): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Only two months ago the then Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Mr Bowen, said that 'universities are entitled to assume they will be at grave risk under a Liberal government' and that 'the sector is entitled to conclude that university funding will be a prime target' for the coalition. Will the minister now apologise to Australian universities for running a cynical scare campaign in preparation for its own recent $2.3 billion cuts?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaMinister for Science and Research and Minister Assisting on Tourism) (14:19): Thank you, Senator Mason. No, I will not apologise, because we have nothing to apologise for. Let me go through those figures again. Perhaps you did not understand what I said when I answered your last question.

Senator Mason: That's not right.

Senator FARRELL: Well, you come up with your own figures, then, Senator Mason. These are the accurate, correct figures. In 2007, when you left government, per student, funding was $16,147. In 2012 it was $17,659. And, by 2017, the projected figure is $18,100. We are delivering.

Senator Mason interjecting

Senator FARRELL: But, Senator Mason, if you do not like—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, you should address your comments to the chair and not across the chamber to Senator Mason.

Senator FARRELL: Thank you, Mr President. I shall do so. Let's hear what you are going to do to higher education, Senator Mason. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Every senator is entitled to be heard in silence.