THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
ABC NEWS 24
THURSDAY, 14 JUNE 2018
SUBJECTS: Freeze on university funding.
DAN CONIFER, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. We now have a university by university breakdown of the impact of the Federal Government’s funding freeze announced last December. Now we have that information, how do you assess it?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This university by university breakdown shows that the $2.2 billion of cuts $2.2 billion of cuts are a problem right across the university sector but that regional universities will be particularly hard hit. That's a real problem in regional communities because universities are real drivers of economic growth including by providing employment opportunities but also because one of the big gaps in Australia is the difference between people in regional areas who have a university qualification and those in the city areas. You look across say, the north shore of Sydney or the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, over 60 percent of people have a bachelor degree or equivalent. If you look at say the north west coast of Tasmania it's about 14 percent. Now the Prime Minister is in the electorate of Braddon today. He should explain to the people of Braddon why hundreds of students, hardworking students, will miss out on a university education because of these funding cuts.
CONIFER: How can you describe them as cuts when according to the Government’s own data, funding to institutions will still rise over this four calendar year period, albeit at a slower rate. How can you describe it as a cut when they’re in fact getting more money?
PLIBERSEK: Well it’s not me describing it as a cut - it’s the Government's own Budget papers. When this shows up as a $2.2 billion saving in the mid-year economic update just before Christmas, I'm not sure how the Government can say on the one hand they've got a $2.2 billion saving from universities and on the other hand that that's not a cut. I mean really it’s semantics isn't it?
CONIFER: The Opposition says it will reverse the freeze if elected. Would that reversal, for example, if a university lost 15 percent versus business as usual, would it recoup that 15 percent under Labor or would it be a $2.2 billion injection in a different way that mightn’t see universities fully compensated for the current policy?
PLIBERSEK: We have said that we will uncap places again; so the rate of growth, the number of extra students universities take and consequently the funding they get will depend on the universities themselves, and it will depend on the choices that students are making. We've costed our policy at $9 billion over the decade and the estimates are that more than 200,000 extra people will go to university. Which universities they choose depends a little bit on the offerings of the university, the quality of the education they're offering, the employability of their graduates and so on, but it's a very substantial extra commitment to university funding.
CONIFER: The University of Tasmania today said that despite the funding freeze that they are hardly going to feel an impact. Is that evidence that this freeze is sustainable and bearable if university vice-chancellors themselves are saying so?
PLIBERSEK: University vice-chancellors, by and large are certainly not saying that. The University of Tasmania will miss out on about $177 million. That means their Cradle Coast campus in particular will take fewer students over time. It means that kids from Burnie and Devonport and Strahan and Stanley will actually miss out on the opportunity of a university education. We estimate about 600 extra students would be able to go to university under our settings, the uncapped settings, compared with what the Government is doing. So it will have a big impact in those regional communities, both on the life opportunities of the kids that miss out and the people, later in life, retraining, upskilling for new jobs, and it will make a big difference too because universities are big employers and big economic contributors in their own right to those regional communities.
CONIFER: Tanya Plibersek, that's all we have time for. Thanks very much for joining us.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.