The Australian, 15 April 2015
By Rosie Lewis
Australian industry has backed the Group of Eight universities’ call for a pause in higher education reform, urging a “stepped” approach rather than rushing out legislation.
Last month the Go8 said its support for fee deregulation was not unconditional and suggested a “depoliticised process” involving academics and employer and business groups to consider alternative funding solutions.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Minerals Council of Australia and the Business Council of Australia remain open to deregulation as part of a revised package, but say the market needs to be better informed about reform benefits and challenges.
The MCA’s Gavin Lind called for a “broad brushed education and training pathway review”.
“Industry are the end users of the product. You’ve got to be pretty sure that graduates are the type that industry wants,” Dr Lind said. “Broader deregulation still has to be considered, but a stepped approach rather than a long jump or triple jump in this case would have helped.”
ACCI’s Jenny Lambert said the reforms needed to be taken “off the bargaining table” and broken down by key stakeholders. “We don’t advocate for another review. But there does need to be a discussion on what’s the best policy; that’s something we’re very keen to engage in,” Ms Lambert said.
“Let’s get deregulation in place, an informed market happening, then allow the transition towards maybe looking at reducing the government’s share for fees. That to us is a logical policy rollout, it’s got robustness and fairness and common sense.”
Dr Lind said he wanted a fresh debate. “If the Education Minister (Christopher Pyne) just recasts for a third time the same narrative, I think the process where it was fragmented before will be broken,” he said.
“The path that the government is likely to go down is a political pathway, but there are broader opportunities when others are saying, ‘We have important things to contribute to this discussion, but you’re not allowing us in.’ ”