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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1987

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (18:06): It was very interesting to sit here and listen to the speech of the member for Bass on this motion on university funding. He continually referred to cuts. In fact, I think he might have used that word at least half a dozen times. Yet if I look through the numbers, I see that when Labor was last in government, in 2013, it spent $14.9 billion. I would think that if there had been a cut it would mean that there was now less money than $14.9 billion being spent, but—lo and behold!—the fact is that this year the Turnbull coalition government is spending over $17 billion. We have spending for higher education at record levels. In fact, it is $2 billion more than what was spent under the last year of the Labor government. Yet we have had Labor member after Labor member come into this chamber and say, 'There are cuts. These cuts are terrible!' This is why many people know that if a member of the Labor Party told you it was raining outside, you'd want to go outside and check for yourself. They cannot talk and whinge about cuts time and time again, because when you look at the figures you see that there have been no cuts, that in fact there has actually been an increase. We see this almost across the board, in every portfolio.

What really gets me is that a lot of people come into our electorate officers and want money spent on all sorts of good causes. Yes, we'd like to spend even more money on education, hospitals, roads, public transport, infrastructure and kids with disabilities. We'd like to put more and new lifesaving drugs on the PBS. But we can only do so if we create wealth in this country, if we use the resources we have to the maximum amount and create wealth in the country. Yet every time we come to a wealth-creating project, the Labor Party and the Greens join together to try and block it. They seem to have a complete disconnect about the fact that you have to have projects in this country that create wealth to be able to give us the money that we need to spend on things.

Going through some of the other facts about these so-called cuts, we should remember that a student can get into university in this country without spending one cent up-front. I would hope that members of the Labor Party would try and talk up education, would try and encourage students in their electorates to consider taking on higher education, but instead we hear all these scare campaigns that they run, saying students can't afford it—sending all these negative messages to the students in their electorate.

That is not what we need. We need to tell the truth to the young people of this nation: they can get into university without one cent up-front. In fact, the Commonwealth of Australia, other taxpayers, are giving to back them and contribute at least 50 per cent of the costs of their degree. They will get that as a gift from other taxpayers. And we are doing that with more and more opportunities.

Let us look at some of the other numbers. We know that when Labor left office after those wonderful years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd regimes—when they were chased out of town—there were 1.1 million students in higher education. This year, under the coalition, we are at 1.5 million students. The coalition government have given 400,000 additional students the opportunity to go to university, because we have been increasing the funding to universities—not the nonsense that we hear from the Labor Party about these 'cuts'.

It goes on. We're increasing the revenue. We're increasing funding. We on this side understand the importance of universities. We want to talk them up, and we want to give opportunities to young Australians to take that opportunity to go to university in this country. I hope that the members of the opposition would support us, rather than go on about fake cuts that don't exist.