Worries afoot for undergraduate domestic students surrounding the lack of any official higher education policy that a potential Abbott government may implement. News Ltd reported recently that the Coalition would inflict a 25% increase on HECS fees and would also cap universities places. This was quickly denied, and was followed by a statement explaining that the Coalition is undergoing “policy development.”
This is something rather surprising to me. Not the response, not the report, but
haven’t 72 MPs and 34 Senators had five years in Opposition to come up with an alternative policy or to endorse to the government’s education policy? And if they were thinking about changing their policy shouldn’t they have been consulting with interested parties such as the National Union of Students?
Presuming the News Ltd reports were fabricated, what have the 106 Coalition members on the Hill been up to? For five years it they seemed to have forgotten about publicly articulating a platform. Unless it is a part of their strategy to avoid policy analysis in political conversation until the November 2013 election.
I suspect the Opposition’s strategy is similar to the LNP’s election strategy for the last Queensland election and Howard’s Work Choices strategy. In the case of Howard: don’t mention the idea of industrial relation reforms until three weeks after the election and the government controls both chambers. As for Newman: Firstly, claim in February that there would be 20,000 additional public sector jobs created.Secondly, once elected in March hold a Peter Costello audit of the budget to find out how bad things are. Thirdlyclaim the budget deficit is uncontrollable making Queensland “the Spain of Australia”.Finally, cut government services and over 20,000 jobs under the auspice of a fiscal emergency. Last week the Courier Mail reported the LNP found $35 billion in their budget tucked under the lounge; halving Costello’s audit figures.
The News Ltd report most likely has some credence. Christopher Pyne mentioned in his denials that the Coalition wanted to bring back full-fee options for domestic students. To find out what the Coalition’s current policy is, I called Pyne’s office, only to be redirected to Brett Mason’s office who were unable to state or confirm any policy for the LNP at present.
This is a worrying prospect higher education. Abbott already refers to himself as the presumptive future Prime Minister; yet his party cannot tell anyone what is will do regarding higher education. Given the recent history of federal and state Liberal government policy disclosure and implementation practises concern is warranted.
To quote Donald Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; … things … we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don’t know.”
We know the Libs do not have a public policy.
We do not know what that policy will be if and when Abbott is Prime Minister.
We know the Libs are planning something and one unhappy faction is leaking to News Ltd the products of policy development.
We know the UK increasing university fees has resulted in a 8.7% drop in enrolments, mostly from minorities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
An unknown unknown is that we do not know if Australia will embrace Abbott’s mystique at the polls when we know nothing about his policies.