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Democrats just plain wrong on Higher Ed.

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Senator Meg Lees

MEDIA RELEASE Senator for South Australia

Democrats Just Plain Wrong on Higher Ed

Australian Progressive Alliance Senator, Meg Lees, today advised the Democrats to check their facts on higher education before issuing accusatory press releases.

“Sadly, the Democrats have been very badly advised about the issue of ministerial intrusion in universities,” said Senator Lees.

“The current Higher Education Funding Act (HEFA) gives the Minister wide discretion about which courses should be funded. Section 15 of the HEFA has already seen the Minister shut down a course in my home state of South Australia.

“The legislation we are now dealing with in the Senate is a major improvement on the status quo.

“The amendment moved yesterday will ensure the Parliament, through a disallowable instrument, will have scrutiny of the university courses which receive taxpayer funding.

“I said in my second reading speech that I believe universities should be shrines to democracy and freedom.

“Allowing Parliament, not the Minister of the day, to make these decisions about how billions of dollars of public money is spent in universities is a vast improvement on what exists now.

“I am surprised that the Democrats were unable to support other cross bench senators on this issue.

“Perhaps the Democrats are simply unaware of the level of intrusion which exists under the current Act. In which case I can only advise they get themselves some better research.

“An accusation about a deal being done with Government is also pre-emptive at best and ill informed at worst.

“The Democrats participated in lengthy negotiations with the Government on Medicare without coming under fire from the four cross bench senators. In fact, Senator Bartlett stated in the chamber yesterday how disappointed he is with those who criticise any attempt at negotiation with government.

“It is a shame that the Leader’s principles have not been applied to his own senators.”

Media Enquiries: Kerrie Thornton 02 6277 3203 or 0438 816 376 4 December 2003