The Labor government's latest raid on the higher education budget, this time to the tune of $2.3 billion, further undermines the quality of Australia's education system and is a setback for national productivity, Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said today.
"To steal from the higher education budget to pay for the schools budget is ludicrous and will be remembered as one of the most disastrous policies of this federal government," Senator Rhiannon said.
"Opposition leader Tony Abbott would be pleased with these cuts. Labor is effectively implementing Coalition policy. This $2.3 billion cut is the biggest since 1996 under the Howard government.
"Gonski's funding plan for public schools could have been achieved if the Labor government had the political will to stand up to the resource industry and fix the mining tax.
"Tertiary Education Minister Craig Emerson's decision to publicly deliver the cuts announcement with Treasurer Wayne Swan sends a shocking message to the higher education sector.
"Mr Emerson after only 19 days as Minister has associated himself with a budget cut and policy change that deeply betrays the very sector he should be defending.
"Of the 29 advanced economies Australia is ranked 25th for public investment in universities.
"This latest reduction follows on from the $1 billion removed by Labor from the higher education budget in the mid-year economic review.
"Labor's claim that they are building an innovative nation with an educated population are hollow, insulting statements now. Today's school students in a few years will be hoping to go to university only to find a lack of support services and overworked staff when they arrive.
"$2.3 billion cannot be taken out of higher education without severe impacts on quality teaching and research.
"Australian universities were overdue for a funding increase. Two government instigated reviews recommended a minimum ten per cent increase in university base funding.
"The government had clear advice that billions of dollars was needed for the higher education sector. Instead the Labor plan will directly cut $1 billion from the nation's universities and take money off students by converting scholarships into loans.
"These changes will further drive down staff work conditions and make it harder for students from regional areas and disadvantaged backgrounds to attend university," Senator Rhiannon said.