Reform Is Needed to Open Up Higher Education to More Australians

“Yesterday the Senate squandered an opportunity to begin much-needed reform of our higher education sector by failing to support the government’s Higher Education Research Amendment Bill 2014,” Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.

Ms Westacott said it was disappointing the Opposition refused point-blank to engage with the government on the reforms that were needed to ensure a higher education sector that is robust, sustainable, and geared towards the needs of tomorrow as well as today.

“Irrespective of which government is in power, they will need to confront the reality that our higher education sector will stagnate if there is no systemic reform.

“We cannot afford for education reform to become a divisive, ideological issue with no continuity from one government to the next.

“The sector will not thrive and prosper if politicians cannot find common ground about a vision for education, and our economy, opportunities and jobs will suffer.

“The government’s Bill was not perfect, but no reform package is. The challenge was to work with the government to make amendments and build in safeguards to ensure university education remained a real opportunity for all Australians. The Opposition missed an opportunity to contribute to reform because it dealt itself out of the debate.

“We have a proud history over the last 40 years of bipartisan support to open up education to more Australians. This was achieved by making difficult decisions about reform. Many of those difficult debates were led by party elders in the Opposition.

“We cannot afford to squander any more opportunities for reform. The government should take a step back and take this chance to get the reform right. The government’s intent for the reforms is right but changes are needed to the package. It needs to now bring the right people together to get the market design, safeguards and the transition right.

“I urge all political parties to recognise the need to reform our education sector, and to work towards a bipartisan solution in early 2015,” Ms Westacott said.

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2603 • Mobile 0403 241 128