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Transcript of a doorstop interview of the Acting Leader of the Opposition: Melbourne: 20 December 2004: University discussion paper released by Brendan Nelson.

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Jenny MacklinMP Shadow Minister for Employment, Education, Training & Science Federal Member for Jaga Jaga

Acting Federal Labor Leader



Subjects: University discussion paper released by Brendan Nelson


What do you think of the plan to … or proposal to take over the universities

from the states?


Well, Brendan Nelson really is ignoring the number one problem facing our

universities, and that’s the very high cost of university education.

Since John Howard was elected, we’ve seen the cost of a university

education go up by almost one hundred per cent, and from January next

year, of course, university costs are going to go up by another twenty-five

per cent.

These are the real issues facing our universities, facing our university

students and their families. Brendan Nelson is pricing students - both

Australian students and the international students - out of a university

education. It’s just getting too expensive.


The federal government already funds universities, so taking the running of

them from the states, does it make any real difference?


Well, the real issue is not who runs our universities; the real issue is that

we now have university education costing so much that university students

are being driven away from extending their education at our universities. A

basic science degree from next year will cost about twenty thousand

dollars. So, it’s no wonder that students are voting with their feet and

deciding not to continue their education at our universities.


But you haven’t really said whether you’re for or against the proposal.


Well, we’ll have a look at the details. The real problem is this is not the

number one issue facing our universities. Our universities are crying out

for extra funding. The Howard government has dramatically cut education

funding, particularly to our universities, and put our universities under

enormous financial pressure.

So, the real problem is not who runs our universities. Brendan Nelson is

ignoring the number one issue, which is the huge increase in costs facing

our students and the inadequacy of funding for our universities.


Education going to be for the wealthy only?


Well, there is no question that that is already the case. We have so many

students paying a hundred thousand dollars or more for a university

education, and only the very wealthy can afford that sort of an education.

That’s why we’re seeing such a significant reduction in the number of

students applying to go to university.


So what’s the call for Mr Nelson to do?


The call to Dr Nelson is to face up to the real issues that our universities

confront. Face up to the fact that so many students these days just cannot

afford a university education. Whether it’s a hundred thousand dollars for

a full fee degree, or whether it’s twenty thousand dollars for a basic

science degree. This is really fees that are forcing students out of our

universities, and that’s what Brendan Nelson should focus on.


A cost an inevitable rise … or are you questioning the full amount of the


MACKLIN: Labor’s always supported students making a contribution to the cost of their education, but it has to be kept reasonable. We know that students are already delaying starting families, delaying buying their first home, because the cost of their university education is so high, and now we’re seeing significant numbers of students being driven away from university because the cost is so high.

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