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Nelson's unfunded backdowns.



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Media Release Jenny MacklinMP

NELSON’S UNFUNDED BACKDOWNS

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Education & Training Federal Member for Jagajaga

The Education Minister’s eleventh-hour backdowns on some higher education measures have zero funding attached to them, according to reports in today’s papers.

The Australian Financial Review says that the last-minute backflips are “budget-neutral.”

The Australian states that they “did not involve new funds.”

If correct, that means:

• The backdown on forcing universities to cut 12,000 HECS places - which does not mean one extra place for Australians applying for university - has no new funding. The Government is not funding these places even though they are already in the system. Universities will have to entirely rely on student contributions if they want to keep these places.

• There is not single dollar extra in the Government’s announcement to provide regional funding to the University of Wollongong and external students. The total amount of regional funding remains unchanged but the pie will now be carved into smaller pieces. All other eligible universities will receive less funding.

• The one year extension of the learning limit is mere window dressing. OECD figures released this week reveal that Australian students already spend the shortest amount of time at university out of any country in with world. According to the Education Minister, only four per cent of students enrolled last year already an undergraduate degree. The Government’s learning limit is a cynical bid which will penalise students who want to upgrade their skills and get new qualifications.

• The decision to exclude fee-exemption scholarships from taxable income will affect only a tiny number of students and does absolutely nothing at all to provide increased assistance for all other students to manage their living costs.

The Education Minister’s backflips are a desperate farce.

They have zero funding attached to them and do nothing to alleviate the core measures of the legislation which will allow universities to increase HECS by 30 per cent and double the number of full fees costing as much as $150,000.

The Howard Government higher education legislation will push Australia to near the very top of the world scale for over-reliance on student fees and force students and their families to take on massive debts for a university degree.

More info: Joanna Brent 02 6277 4045; 0408 473 278 18 September 2003