The power of one over uni funding

Despite the denounceathon of the Government’s higher education funding bill it has not Norwegian Blue-ed, at least not yet

For a start, Education Minister Dan Tehan has room to move on the details. He certainly could fine-tune the cost-bands subjects sit in, an all but-universal demand from HE lobbies. While it’s not in the bill, the proposed regional student study subsidy could be valid at more institutions, Uni Tasmania comes to mind.

But even if government calms down the lobbies and accepts amendments to make the legislation if not loved then at least not loathed by all in HE it still has to survive the Senate.

The coalition has 36 votes there and the other coalition, of Labor and the Greens, 35. As to the five on the crossbench, who knows? CMM is even more clueless than usual.

But observers who can count to 39 suggest Queensland senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts will line up with the government.

The two South Australians on the crossbench, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff are way too wily to declare a position this early but if they are agin it will come down to Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.

Senator Lambie is considered a strong supporter of education for Tasmanians and suspicious of what Canberra created change might mean for it.  She was certainly solid against Christopher Pyne’s plan to deregulate degree costs.

But that does not mean she looks favourably on all of HE.  Back in July Group of Eight chair Margaret Gardner (Monash U) gave evidence to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19, of which Senator Lambie is a member.  She asked what sort of risk-assessment universities undertook – and she wasn’t impressed with Professor Gardner’s reply;

“You are the Group of Eight. You are a university. You are supposed to be up there with the very best, but you didn’t see an issue with your over-reliance on international students. You have been relying on them for years and years and years. You did not see a problem with that: your over-reliance on the money that comes through from that. Did you see that in a risk assessment, or did you see nothing on that? You did not see a problem with that, or did you just turn a blind eye to it?” Senator Lambie asked.*

A different issue to be sure, but the senator may not be inclined to do follow peak lobbies’ lead on Mr Tehan’s bill.

As for Uni Tasmania, it’s not a member of the Go8.

* The hearing transcript attributes the questions to Professor Gardner. CMM was listening to the hearing, they’re Senator Lambie’s word).