Subject: (Higher Education Reforms)
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Christopher Pyne has built a consensus of support amongst Australia’s higher education institutions for higher education reform, for our universities reform package. That is because whether it is the TAFE directors or the G8 (group of eight), whether it’s the private education providers or Universities Australia or the regional universities network, all of them recognise that there is a need to put in place a more sustainable funding model for universities in the future. That there is a real need for universities to have the capacity to innovate and to be specialists in their field and there’s a real need to open up opportunities for pathways and diplomas and for more students to be able to participate in our higher education sector, and that is exactly what the government’s university package does. Having built a consensus of support for university reform among Australia’s educational institutions, we are determined to push on to deliver a majority of support, here in the nation’s parliament, for it. We want to make sure that we do deliver the reforms required so our universities can be the best in the world, so they can provide the maximum opportunity to all Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds, so that we can shut the door on Labor’s proposals to re-cap university places and deny students opportunity in future. So we will push on, we will push on with these higher education reforms because of the benefits they provide to students, to universities and to the nation. We’re determined to continue this fight and we will make sure that we engage at every opportunity with the universities sector and the cross-benchers and, if willing, the Labor party, who should heed the messages of Peter Beattie, of John Dawkins, of Gareth Evans, of Maxine McKew, of the panoply of Labor stalwarts who are arguing and supporting the case for higher education reform. The modern day Labor party should embrace the argument of those who have governed Australia well in the past, from the Hawke and Keating eras, and actually deliver the reforms and support for reforms that our education sector so desperately needs, and the cross-benchers I would urge to work with Universities Australia, with the regional universities network, with the innovative research universities, embrace with all of those educational reformists who are backing the need for reform, who recognise that it is real, and work with them to come back and have a constructive position that allows us to progress this important reform for the nation’s future.
JOURNALIST: When do you expect to be reintroduced in to the Senate? And if that fails, will you concede defeat?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: we are determined to push on with this reform. We’re not going to set arbitrary timelines. What we are going to do is work with the cross-benchers, where willing, implore the Labor party to work with us and to step away from their changes which would deny so many students, potentially 100,000 or 80,000 students, access to university places in future. We urge all parties to work with us, but most importantly, listen to that consensus in the sector, to 40 of the nation’s 41 Vice-Chancellors, who recognise the need for reform is real.
JOUNALIST: You’ll have to significantly re-draft the laws though, won’t you? These reforms, to get them through the Senate?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: we have a reform proposal which has been before the Parliament now. We stand by that reform proposal that, at its heart, provides greater autonomy, greater freedom, greater liberty to Australia’s universities. After all, if our universities can’t manage to run themselves effectively, how can we have any hope for the rest of the country?
JOURNALIST: If you’re talking about consensus, clearly, there’s no consensus in the community, these reforms are deeply unpopular.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I reject that. There is clear consensus among the nation’s education institutions, from the TAFE directors to the universities. All of them are on board with the need for reforms of the nature that the government is proposing. We need to turn that consensus among educational institutions, in to a majority in the Senate.
JOURNALIST: What are you going to do differently this time? What are some of the concrete things that you can put on the table that are different to what you’ve had?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We will keep talking, but most importantly, we urge those on the cross-bench and we implore the Labor party, not just to talk to us, but to talk to Universities Australia, to the Regional Universities Network, to the G8, to the TAFE directors, talk to those who run the education institutions who are urging for reform of this nature.
JOURNALIST: How many attempts are you willing to make with the legislation, as it stands, to put it to a vote to the Senate?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This reform is fundamental to providing greater opportunity for Australian students, to ensuring that our universities are of world class standard, and our economy has the opportunity to be as productive as possible in the future. So we will try, try and try again because we know this reform is so very important to the nation.