In his first week on the job, the Australian Greens have challenged the new Minister for Higher Education Craig Emerson to act on student demands and put in place protection from an Abbott government by signalling his commitment to increase base funding for universities.
Today students on campuses around Australia are taking action to demand an end to course cuts, fee hikes and threats to independent student representation. Greens higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon will attend a student rally at 1pm at the University of Technology Sydney, marching Sydney University to support the ongoing strike.
"Today's national day of action is an opportunity for Minister Emerson to realign government policy and commit to boost base funding for universities", said Senator Rhiannon.
"If Labor don't come up with a commitment to increase funding in the upcoming budget, Minister Emerson will have to wear the charge that he has paved the way for an Abbott government to increase fees and shift the cost burden onto students at the expense of quality education for students and decent conditions for staff.
"The Greens will step up our campaign for a 10 per cent increase in the level of funding per government-supported university student in the lead up to the May budget.
"I am seeking a meeting with Minister Emerson to discuss resourcing of tertiary education.
"Many students are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet between higher costs of living, rising rents, inadequate student allowances and mounting HECS debts.
"Federal Labor has so far ignored the Bradley Review and Lomax Smith Review recommendations to increase per student funding for universities.
"Australia sits well behind the US, Canada, New Zealand and France on average spending on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP.
"I congratulate the National Union of Students for spurring actions at campuses across Australia. Minister Emerson would be wise to act on the students' demands and make his mark as a champion of better funding for our universities", said Senator Rhiannon.