Labor: criticisms but no promises

Issue 

Labor: criticisms but no promises

By Kerry Baker

HOBART — Federal shadow minister for education Michael Lee strongly condemned the federal government's goods and services tax, and its likely impact on education, but carefully avoided committing the ALP to overturning it when he spoke to students at the University of Tasmania on March 2.

Lee claimed that the GST on education services will mean that the equivalent of one teacher's salary will be spent at each school on meeting GST-related price increases. He also condemned the government's decision that condoms will be tax-exempt but tampons and sanitary pads will not be.

Lee was also criticised the Coalition's failure to adequately fund education, saying that the proportion of Australia's income spent on education, training and research has shrunk from 3% at the time of the Coalition's election to 2.5%. He said that education will be a key issue for Labor in the next federal election campaign.

While Lee was more than willing to criticise federal education minister David Kemp's plans to privatise higher education, he backed away from measures which would make education more accessible and affordable. Questioned as to whether the ALP would pledge to reverse education funding cuts and reintroduce free education, he stated that Labor will not abolish HECS, which has risen from 20% of course cost to 40% since it was introduced by the ALP in 1989, because that would be "too expensive".