Speech - House of Representatives - 12 May 2021
Historically, education has been at the heart of nation-building. After World War II it was key reforms initiated by Labor governments that saw education levels rise and the creation of the Australian National University. In the early 1990s, it was the Keating government that saw a massive increase in the school completion rate. Yet in last night's budget there was no increase to research block grants and nothing of note for the universities, save for one million dollars to support industry PhDs and some additional flexibility for student visa holders. For the Australian National University, this means they've lost one in 10 staff and potentially stand to see the closure of their neuroscience department.
As Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt has pointed out, the hit to universities' revenue could be in the billions of dollars. But the government can solve this. It needs to get vaccination and quarantine right; work with universities, not against them; set aside the culture wars; and invest in the productive capacity of the Australian economy. We need more investment in research rather than the mindless cuts that could see the Australian National University forced to close its neuroscience faculty. Labor will be on the side of universities. We call on the government to do the same.