The new Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham announced on October 1 that he has no plans to reintroduce legislation to deregulate university fees this year: the key words in that statement are “this year”.
Students rallied across the country on August 19 to protest education minister Christopher Pyne's third attempt to introduce a fee deregulation bill. Tony Abbott’s government has twice failed to pass fee deregulation, which could allow fees in excess of $100,000 for students. The bill has not yet been put for a third time, but Pyne is determined to pass it. More than 80 people rallied at the Sydney University protest, called by the National Union of Students, to oppose deregulation, defend current degrees and oppose all course and job cuts.
Students say ‘Resign Pyne’ About 100 people protested outside the Melbourne launch of federal education minister Christopher Pyne’s new book, A Letter to My Children, on July 31. The day before, Pyne had been chased off La Trobe University by students chanting, "Pyne the Minister. Can he fix it? No he can’t.” The protest was called to draw attention to Pyne's ongoing attempts to deregulate university fees. This would condemn future students to pay much higher fees to gain a tertiary education.
Rallies have been called in response to the federal government’s attack on education funding in the upcoming budget, and a big one is planned for Sydney on budget day, May 12. Although Christopher Pyne’s education policies have been repeatedly defeated in the Senate, he is determined to continue to try to “fix” the education system by reducing governmental funding and pushing for fee deregulation. The next chance he will have to do this is with mass education spending cutbacks in the budget.
In a period of so-called “budget emergency” when deep funding cuts are being imposed on universities and scientific research, the federal government has managed to find $4 million for a “consensus centre” headed by advocate for climate inaction Bjørn Lomborg. The $13 million centre will form part of the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) business school, with the Commonwealth contributing $4 million over four years.
The Senate has voted down Christopher Pyne’s Higher Education Reform Bill, which would uncap university fees. This is the second time that the legislation has been struck down. It puts Tony Abbott’s government on aan uneasy footing. The defeat of the bill comes after Pyne spent weeks on a campaign to bully and threaten crossbenchers in parliament. This strategy included threatening to cut $150 million of research funding to the National Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) if the bill was not passed.
Despite widespread public opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne are determined to get their higher education deregulation bill through the Senate. Students, on the other hand, are just as determined to stop it. Mia Sanders, the UWS Bankstown Student Council Secretary and an education activist, told Green Left Weekly that students would not back down.