Shadow Minister for Higher Education Kim Carr and Labor Senator Helen Polley have once again asked Bass Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic to provide leadership on the future of the University of Tasmania (UTAS).
At today’s Tasmanian Labor State Conference in Launceston, a motion was successfully carried which opposed recent changes to the higher education sector by the Abbott Government.
The motion stated that: “Conference reaffirms its stance that education is a right, not a privilege and that your economic circumstances or background should not be a barrier to equal opportunity.”
The decision taken by Conference comes two weeks after the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Senator Marise Payne, stumbled badly in her response to several questions from Senator Carr during Senate Question Time.
Senator Carr said that the Abbott Government’s higher education policies would be a disaster for Tasmania.
“Tasmanians should be concerned that the Abbott Government has been given several opportunities to guarantee the future of higher education in the state and failed spectacularly each time.
“I think the motion passed by Conference in Tasmania makes an important point, which is that the Abbott Government is closing opportunities to many people and sentencing others to a lifetime of crippling debt.
“Australia is an egalitarian country; we are not a country that wants a wealthy elite enjoying a superior education that is unattainable to those from less privileged backgrounds.
“I commend the motion passed at the Tasmanian Conference – it sends exactly the right message to a Government which is completely out of touch.”
Senator Polley said that Mr Nikolic should carefully consider the motion passed by Conference and make sure that Launceston’s Newnham campus survives intact.
“There is one party that has real concerns about the future of UTAS and ensuring that higher education in Tasmania remains accessible to everyone regardless of their socio-economic status and I can tell you that it is not Mr Nikolic’s Liberal party.
“Only Labor is committed to ensuring that UTAS can survive without having to slug students outrageous fees that many of them cannot afford.
“We must do all we can to stand up to the Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, and his disastrous plans for higher education in this country. There is just too much at stake, the Newnham campus alone has close to 6000 students and is the largest employer in Launceston.
“It employs people in groundbreaking research in fields such as biomedical science and truly is something that this state can be proud of. The question Mr Nikolic needs to ask himself is whether he is willing to stand up and fight for UTAS.”
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