The most important thing is not that you have the best university in the world but the best university system in the world. You don’t want to have one Rolls-Royce and 12 clapped-out Commodores.
Greg Craven, ACU and personal friend of Tony Abbott
Education Minister ‘mincing poodle’ Christopher Pyne was yapping all over the airwaves this morning over the failure of his so-called higher education ‘refahhrms’ as he somehow manages to pronounce the word reforms. He sounded fractious, almost shaping to hit Chris Uhlmann with his man-bag this morning on RN AM. And he was downright bitchy later, twitting Uhlmann when pressed on his illogicality in insisting that the Senate were obstructive whilst congratulating his party on getting 75% of its legislation passed.
“I thought you were referring to my higher education bill. In fact you said that most of it hadn’t gotten through by the end of the year and I was correcting you.”
To hear Pyne, this morning, he was the only one making any sense. He was a great hard-working minister, even if he said so himself. Everyone else including the slackers tuning in had merely been twiddling their thumbs in wilful idleness. Why he had been feverishly working his little fingers to the bone to make sure even Lazarus was fully texted.
The universities were all on board, the diligent minister pointed out, neglecting to mention the 20% funding cut and the hints of more to come he had applied along with the lure of being able to charge what they liked when the Bill got through, to bring them into line. But everyone else was out of line, especially those obstructionists and vandals in the senate. It was enough to make a man weep into his Rolodex.
But he was not a quitter, he reassured himself and anyone else listening before misquoting Churchill in the hope of building an image of heroic, nation-saving resolve. Instead he sounded as if he couldn’t even get a famous quote right, let alone any reform. What he meant to say was:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
It is the ending of Pyne. But he’s only got himself to blame. He didn’t do his homework and he didn’t prepare his case. He hasn’t really put a coherent case. There isn’t one. But that didn’t stop him plunging ahead with his scheme to scrap what was working well and fairly for massive, unregulated fee hikes that would make a lot of money for banks and other money lenders, price ordinary people out of the market and put the others into debt for much of their working lives.
Not making a case while making cuts, has been another blunder, another shot in the Gucci leather boot. Now, thanks to his ineptitude, instead of being converted to any cause, the public is totally off-side and confused. To the public it looks as if the government is arguing that deregulation is needed because the Abbott government is committed to taking 20% of funding out of the tertiary education sector. That’s what happens when governments present us with a solution to a non-existent problem. Yet there was a token attempt to consult.
To be fair to Pyne, although the facts do him absolutely no credit, he did go through the motions. There was very limited, unconvincing attempt at a “Clayton’s consultation” before deregulation of tertiary education was dropped on an unsuspecting public in the May budget. When it landed, it looked like a turkey; it looked ideological rather than sensible, workable or necessary. It still looks that way.
Of course, Pyne had cobbled together a Mickey Mouse ‘review’ comprising two right wing yesterday’s men and nobody else. Former Howard Education Minister David Kemp and his adviser Andrew Norton were paid well to barrack for complete deregulation, the solution which, amazingly, like the commission of audit’s “solutions”, was the very answer the government wanted (even though it has never been able to say why.) It was also the same answer that they had come up with in Howard’s time and one that voters had rejected in 1993 in the “unlosable election.” Pyne appears to have not bothered with any homework. He was in too much of a hurry to impress. It was rush, rush, rush.
The public was given four weeks to respond. Only two of the eighty responses were from student organisations. The Abbott government produced no evidence that the changes would produce any of the results claimed. No tangible outcomes. Nothing. And it had no model to show what a deregulated system would look like in future. That’s because no-one knows what will happen when you throw caution (and the system) to the winds of an unregulated market.
Pyne made a big deal of university support:
But they asked the Senate to pass the bill. They asked the crossbenchers to pass the bill. Every single university representative organisation did. So you’d have to say on balance they must be pretty supportive of the Government.
In fact, Mr Pyne all your listeners would say on balance is that Universities were happy to be allowed to set their own fees. They were agreeing to a scheme which would allow them to charge what the market would bear. Your 20% cuts may also have helped them in their thinking. Nothing like a loaded gun to the head to induce clear reason.
The proposed changes will make it harder for the average person to obtain tertiary education but will assist greatly with its restriction to a better class of person. If you hate the idea of an open, equal society and if you will do everything you can to further the interests of wealth and privilege in an age where all measures show that inequality is steadily increasing in all western economies, then you will back Christopher Pyne as he takes a punt with our children’s futures. He’s got nothing to lose.
Pyne’s ‘reforms’ are nothing but an ideologically-driven gamble, that will lock up educational opportunity, whilst introducing a climate of competition that will see the wealthy and prestigious universities doing very well while all the rest suffer badly.
The Abbott government’s higher education reforms are toxic. They were not popular the first time they were tried. Pyne’s pickle is no surprise to anyone, really, except the coalition, and a few rusted-on neo-cons, because the ‘reforms are a solution in search of a problem. They won’t work. They will benefit no-one, apart from banks and other money lenders and University bursars. And, of course Christopher Pyne. Perhaps we should leave the last word to him. This morning in true Abbott-government fashion, the current failure of this ill-conceived, ill-prepared, badly managed dog of a policy, was a temporary setback to the Minister, and, verified by the highest authority in the land, the Murdoch press, all the fault of that nasty Senate:
No. The Senate is what it is. We have to negotiate with the crossbenchers. There was a Telegraph poll about two weeks ago which said that 66 per cent of the Australian public believe that the Senate was being obstructionist, not constructive. That makes it very difficult for the Government.
Diddums. Feel sorry for yourself, Mr Pyne, we don’t feel sorry for you. You mean, you have to deal with an Opposition? You mean it’s hard work being democratic? Difficult? Go drown in your self-pity. The rest of Australia is saying thank God for the Opposition.