The federal education minister, Simon Birmingham, has foreshadowed taking a revamped higher education policy to voters at the 2016 election if the Senate refuses to accept a compromise.
Birmingham also confirmed that the decision announced on Thursday to defer by one year the proposed starting date for deregulating fees did not go to a full cabinet meeting for approval.( Is this Turnbull's first 'captains pick'?)
Instead, he said, the process had been sanctioned by the prime minister and consultation had taken place with appropriate agencies.
The deregulation of university fees and cuts of 20% to the public subsidy for bachelor degrees were due to begin in January 2016, but Christopher Pyne’s legislation was blocked by the Senate twice and there was no prospect of a breakthrough in the next session of parliament.
Birmingham, who announced the deferral to January 2017 at the earliest, said on Friday that he would “take a few months” to consult crossbench senators, vice chancellors, students and other stakeholders about ways to address the sector’s funding needs.
Christopher Pyne could not and would not admit that the sums don't work on the student fees bill!
Ten months of pleading and bargaining couldn't hide the fact that the Coalition does not have enough Senate support to get the legislation through
Birmingham, who was sworn in as education minister last month, said there were “meritorious arguments” for the elements of the existing package.
Birmingham hinted that the government would be unable to pursue spending measures – such as extension of funding to sub-bachelor programs and private colleges – without finding some areas to cut.( Yeah...we really need more shonky private colleges!)
Labor – which has released a policy to increase public funding for universities and provide incentives to improve completion rates – argued the government’s announcement reflected “the politics of gesture, not substance”.
Labor’s higher education spokesman, Kim Carr, described the lack of a cabinet decision on the implementation date as a “captain’s pick” by Malcolm Turnbull.
Carr said the revelation demonstrated that the “insignificant” announcement did not reflect a change in government policy.
“So much for Turnbull’s commitment to traditional cabinet processes,” Carr said.
“These are tactical decisions, clearly not substantial policy changes.”
The government came under significant political pressure over higher education plans, which were announced as part of the contentious 2014 budget.
The Coalition did not release a higher education policy before the 2013 election, but the then leader Tony Abbott said there would be “no cuts to education” and the Real Solutions document said there would be “the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding”.Mmmmm they lied!