SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS TONY BURKE: It’s great to be here today in Adelaide with Kate Ellis. Every day for a period of 31 days we’re going through the lies that Tony Abbott told during the election campaign. On this day exactly 12 months ago, Tony Abbott said: “It has always been my position that if you go to an election saying something, you should keep that commitment at least for the term of the subsequent parliament.” This one actually brings together almost every lie that we had from Tony Abbott during the election campaign. Today here at a University, we’re able to look at exactly what "no cuts to education" ended up meaning. Not only are we seeing the impact the cuts will have on universities and on schools, but also the the impact for individual students with the changes to indexation and the massive hikes in individual feed. I’ll hand over to Kate Ellis.
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD KATE ELLIS: It’s fantastic to have Tony Burke here and to be at Adelaide University, a world class university which we are very very proud of. Of course we will stand up and fight to ensure that all students can have access to world class universities like this one. We know that that is under threat due to the previously unannounced policies, the extreme notions which Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott have now put before the public. Today at universities around Australia, we see Bill Shorten and Labor people out talking to students, talking to staff, talking to the university sector and saying only the Labor Party will stand up and fight Tony Abbott’s plan to destroy our higher education sector.
JOURNALIST: What’s your understanding of how universities like Flinders and UniSA and Adelaide University, where do they stand in terms of cuts?
BURKE: In terms of those dollar figures, I don’t have them at my finger tips, but the reality is Universities will be receiving less money from the Federal Government but in terms of what that leads to for individual students, is students end up looking at future debt and end up in a situation where they are making a choice between, are they going to end up taking on a mortgage or are they going to end up taking on a student debt. It’s then indexed at a rate where if you get the same degree and go on a modest income, you end up paying more back to the Government than if you get a high income after your degree. You end up with this bizarre situation which matches the whole way this budget has unravelled, that the worst off you are the harder the Government hits you.
JOURNALIST: The Advertiser is reporting today that person has gone through and accumulated a $180,000 HECS debt but is not working - do you see that scenario arising more?
BURKE: What’s been reported today is the fact that it’s newsworthy that there’s only one person in this situation. With the deregulation of fees we’re looking down the barrel of there being students all around Australia with this sort of debt.
JOURNALIST: And in those sorts of figures?
BURKE: If you’ve got a situation where people are already talking about $100,000 degrees, then there’s no doubt that deregulation will leave some people with absolutely extraordinary debts. What today is being reported as a one off would become far far more common if Christopher Pyne get’s his way.
JOURNALIST: So, is this a matter that will be knocked off in the senate?
BURKE: Labor’s in a situation where we don’t know what the cross bench will do. But we can make absolutely clear that we’ll stand on the side of students and we’ll stand on the side of making sure that education in Australia is something that actually matters and is funded.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of the Senate, the Australian today reports some machinations in Victoria about Senators Conroy and Carr and their ambitions for their futures. It’s suggested by an insider that perhaps it might be time for them to ride off into the sunset I think was the reports in the Australian today. Do you have any views on that sentiment?
BURKE: No, I thought it was an anonymous source making a silly claim. They’re two of our most senior people and of course they’d be staying on.
JOURNALIST: Senator Carr would be nudging 70 by the time that was over then. Is that really the sort of image you want for a party in regeneration mode?
BURKE: They’re two of our most senior people and they’re playing an important role for the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: So you’re happy to see them there ’til 68?
BURKE: They’re two of our most senior people. I think we’re a long way, at the exact same time the Government is bringing in legislation wanting to argue that retirement ages should be put off and off, it’s a bit bizarre we’re having an argument like that about two senators who are both performing very well and are very senior.
JOURNALIST: Thank you.