“I’m not going to tell the country that poor people can’t get their dream jobs. I just want everyone to have a chance at what they want to be,” Senator Lambie said. “I just don’t think it’s a fair bill.”
Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean that conflict won’t find you. That’s been the lesson of the past seven years.
— Tanya Plibersek
The package also reduces per-student funding by 5.8 per cent, increases funding to create opportunities for students to obtain real-world experience, and reintroduced a discount for students who pay their fees upfront.
Without Senator Lambie’s vote, the government needs the support of Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff to pass the bill in the Senate.
Speaking at The Australian Financial Review High Education Summit on Thursday, Ms Plibersek accused the government of using the significant financial impact of the coronavirus to wage an ideological war.
Universities have laid off thousands of workers following an estimated $4.6 billion hit to revenue due to a major fall in international student fees.
“No other industry of this size has been treated with the contempt that universities have been shown by Scott Morrison. No industry employing 260,000 Australians has been thrown under the bus this gleefully.
Step up and fight
“If any other important export industry – such as coal, gas, iron ore – was facing a crisis like this, Scott Morrison would, quite rightly, be falling over himself to help save jobs.”
Both Ms Plibersek and Senator Lambie urged universities to stand up for themselves.
“As university leaders, you can sometimes seem embarrassed to defend your institutions; and squeamish about campaigning for your interests,” Ms Plibersek. “But the fact is, avoiding conflict doesn’t mean that conflict won’t find you. That’s been the lesson of the past seven years.”
“People who had their lives changed by university; people who want their kids to get opportunities they never did. They’re out there – just waiting for your lead.”
Senator Lambie called for the sector to offer a unified front.
“That means the rural and regional universities and the Group of Eight go back to the table and instead of being dictated to about how things will be, it’s time they present something that is unified and tell us what they need.
“They’ve got to stop being a business model and go back to being a teaching institute for our children.”