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Government control of Senate spells trouble for unis.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/1054 TUESDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2004 SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HIGHER EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON GOVT CONTROL OF SENATE SPELLS TROUBLE FOR UNIS Education Minister Brendan Nelson’s proposed higher education changes are an openly hostile move against public universities, their staff and communities, according to the Australian Democrats. Democrats’ Higher Education Spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said Dr Nelson had indicated he would use the Government's Senate majority to ram through ideologically driven policies which the higher education sector has previously rejected. "Dr Nelson’s plans to attack the industrial relations rights of universities by extending the use of Australian Workplace Agreements, which override collective bargaining agreements, will be hugely divisive," Senator Stott Despoja said "Universities are already allowed to negotiate individual staff agreements, but these must be at or above the award, whereas AWAs do not have this safeguard. It represents more micro-management of universities from a Minister who says they require less regulation. "Plans to outlaw compulsory student unionism would see the erosion of important protections, and result in a sharp decline in student services such as accommodation, childcare, sporting facilities and counselling. "During debate on higher education legislation last year, the Senate was able to remove some of the Government’s most damaging proposals. Now Dr Nelson says he wants total control over the universities, including greater control over staff and students. "Dr Nelson says universities require money to be internationally competitive and yet, the Vice-Chancellors are still crying out for the Government to maintain the real value of their grants through adequate indexation, which the Democrats tried to introduce but were defeated on. "Dr Nelson must reveal at which universities he plans to stop research and detail his reasons for doing so. He must also detail how he would curb academics’ power to strike. "The Coalition’s new Senate majority spells danger for the entire higher education sector." Media contact - Kate Griffith - 0417 085 260