In another back flip only weeks after the leadership coup, new Education Minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed that a Turnball Government will shelve its university deregulation policy for at least a year.
Senator Birmingham announced this delay at the World Academic Summit at the beginning of this month, saying he wants to eliminate uncertainty surrounding education funding.
“With only three months left in 2015, it is necessary to give both universities and students certainty about what the higher education funding arrangement for 2016 will be,” he said.
“Therefore, today I am announcing that higher education funding arrangements for 2016 will not be changed from currently legislated arrangements, while the Government consults further on reforms for the future.”
Delaying the policy certainly does not mean the end of the Liberal’s push for university autonomy, as Senator Birmingham has previously declared his support of former Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s work.
“I look forward to building on Christopher Pyne’s unstinting efforts to ensure Australia has the highest standards of education at all levels,” he said.
Senator Birmingham told Sky News he would back the policy even if he has to compromise.
“We will want to make sure that we can get real reform progress. If that means we have to compromise, that’s what we will do,” he said.
VIDEO: Govt open to compromise on education reform, Sky News
Labor has opposed this policy from its conception, and this delay has changed nothing, with the Opposition now pushing for the reform to be “dumped for good”.
— Australian Labor (@AustralianLabor) October 1, 2015
Labor has made their opposition to “$100,000 degrees” a corner stone of their election strategy, which Bill Shorten highlighted when he spoke at a recent press conference.
“On average over the next decade, a Shorten Labor Government will invest an additional $9,000 in each Australian students’ education, for a typical three-year degree,” he said.
VIDEO: Labor unveils higher education policy, ABC News 24
Labor also wants to maintain that students should not be able to buy their way into university.
“We believe that it is your marks and how hard you work which should determine your future in life, not how rich your parents are.” #auspol
— Australian Labor (@AustralianLabor) September 25, 2015
What Liberal’s reform will mean for students
Deregulated university fees means public universities will be able to charge students an amount they deem appropriate, which means a potential for increased tuition, or Labor’s coined phrase, “$100,000 degrees”.
HELP loans will also be affected, with the threshold at which students begin repaying their debt to be lowered. This means students will have their debt repayments taken from their income earlier.
Interest on these loans will be tied to the government bond rate rather than to inflation, which means graduates could be paying up to six per cent interest annually.