By Tanya Plibersek

23 September 2020


SUBJECT: The Liberals’ plan to make to harder and more expensive for Australians to go to university.
LEON COMPTON, HOST: Tanya Plibersek's the Federal Shadow Minister for Education. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.
COMPTON: An interesting morning Tanya Plibersek, appreciate you holding in there.
PLIBERSEK: So much news! 
COMPTON: So much news this morning. Got any thoughts on Simon Overland being appointed the General Manager of the Burnie Council?
PLIBERSEK: No, I couldn't possibly comment (laughs)
COMPTON: Let's get to an area where you could comment. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, he gave qualified support, but said they, the University of Tasmania, will support a package which overall will benefit Tasmanian students. Do you understand the reasoning behind that for this, you know, one state one university policy? 
PLIBERSEK: No, and I don't like to disagree with the Vice-Chancellor but I think he's utterly wrong on this because out of this package students will pay more, thousands of students will see their fees double. It'll be harder to get into university, billions will be cut from the university sector and it's actually not going to do what the Government said it was going to do, direct people into high priority courses. Because first of all the funding for each extra place in those areas, that the Government says we want you studying science technology engineering math nursing teaching, the university actually get less to teach those subjects. So there'll be a disincentive to offer extra places in those areas.
So I think this is a very bad deal for universities. I understand that universities are desperate. So I understand that the University of Tasmania says well, we had $58 million cut in 2017. 3,800 students won't get a chance to go to university because of that, we need growth in student numbers. I understand why they're desperate for growth in student numbers. But this package doesn't even guarantee those extra places. 
COMPTON: What it does is index the funding over time at three, three and a half percent in ways that our Vice-Chancellor says will benefit Tasmania and regional Tasmania particularly. 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I just have to say I don't agree with him, and people like Mark Warburton who ran the university funding section of the Department of Education says that this is particularly a bad deal for the University of Tasmania. They'll lose potentially eight percent, more than the national –  eight percent compared with the national average of six percent. So University of Tasmania is actually going to do worse than the mainland out of this deal according to the most expert university funding academic in the country. I just think it's really quite weak of the Vice-Chancellor to give in. I get that he's under pressure, he's already had $58 million cut from his budget, he's looking for any growth at all. But given that this is such a bad deal for UTAS, given that they've already got redundancies on the table, they need extra funding, he should not be backing in something that locks in funding cuts for years to come.
COMPTON: Jacqui Lambie will need to consider this, it'll be the crossbenchers that will allow this change to succeed or fail given your party's opposition to it. What is your message for Jacqui Lambie brackets. She’ll be talking with us after new at 9 o'clock. 
PLIBERSEK: Jackie has been really thoughtful about engaging with this legislation. She's examining it very closely and I think my message to Jackie, as it is to the whole cross bench is, think about those poor year 12s. This year they've been remote learning, they've had their education disrupted, they're now being told that the course they've had their hearts set on for a year or two years or three years or five years is going to more than double in cost in some cases. It's these year 12s have had the year from hell, the unemployment queues are growing. We should be helping young people get skilled, get an education, go to TAFE or go to university, if they can't get a job straight out of school, which is increasingly difficult. Let's help them get an education. Let's not make it harder. Let's not put up the price of so many thousands of degrees. Forty percent of students will pay more and many of those will see course costs more than double. So you're talking about fourteen and a half thousand dollars a year for an ordinary degree fourteen and a half thousand dollars a year. 
COMPTON: To what extent, Tanya Plibersek is this part of the Federal Government pivoting to help universities respond to what we're expecting will be a drop in international student numbers and a significant drop in numbers of students from China.
PLIBERSEK: It doesn't help because it cuts billions of dollars more from university funding. It locks in the damage that's been done by the loss of international students. If the Government wanted to help it should have let Australian universities get access to JobKeeper. Can you believe that they gave an American university access to JobKeeper but not any Australian university access to JobKeeper? If they wanted to help, they'd help with that. They wouldn't cut research funding.
They'd actually be supporting universities and more particularly supporting students to give them the chance to go to university or TAFE. They're not doing that they're doing the opposite. 
COMPTON: What do you think the picture looks like for international students and particularly Chinese students into Tasmania for 2021 and beyond? 
PLIBERSEK: I hope that we will be able to welcome international students back eventually, when it's safe to so. We have to have very clear protocols for quarantine and so on and of course we need to get Australians back first. There are still tens of thousands of Australians, desperate to get home, stuck overseas. We need to prioritize those Australians first. But international students bring a lot of revenue, a lot of business, it's not just the money they pay to the university. It's the money they pay in rent, it's the meals they buy, it's the spending money. It's their parents visiting and doing tourism in the state that they're visiting. So in the future, we would like to see international students come back. This is a $39 billion export industry for Australia. It's our fourth largest export earner in normal times and we can't afford to give that up. And of course it funds university research it subsidises the research that's being done in university, and we've lost thousands of researchers. 
COMPTON: After news at 9:00 we'll get a better understanding of what Jacqui Lambie is thinking is and her support or otherwise for these proposed reforms. Thanks for talking with us this morning. Tanya Plibersek Shadow Minister for Education.