Clarence Valley Community Unions (CVCU) activists were out and about in the Clarence electorate last week, highlighting higher education issues, including changes to the TAFE system and the federal government’s plan to deregulate the university sector.
CVCU said in a media release that it had collected “thousands of signatures” at various markets and street stalls.
Protesters also gathered outside Kevin Hogan’s Lismore office to voice their concerns about “$100,000 degrees and the 20 per cent funding cut to Southern Cross University”.
Coincidentally, the unionists had a victory of sorts, on the government’s proposed deregulation of the university sector, when Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham spoke at the Times Higher Education Conference last Thursday.
Citing the Senate’s failure to pass the House of Representatives-approved legislation on two occasions, he said the “impasse” was “creating an air of uncertainty for our higher education sector”.
“With only three months left in 2015, it is necessary to give both universities and students certainty about what the higher education funding arrangements for 2016 will be,” he said.
“Therefore, today I am announcing that higher education funding arrangements for 2016 will not be changed from currently legislated arrangements while the government consults further on reforms for the future.
“Any future reforms, should they be legislated, would not commence until 2017 at the earliest.”
Speaking on behalf of CVCU, United Services Union northern organiser Craig Chandler said: “As much as it is a victory of sorts, to be put on hold for two years; what happens if the government is re-elected.”
The CVCU activists said: “Whether it’s ensuring funding the final two years of needs-based Gonski funding for school aged students, providing access that is affordable for students seeking … a TAFE qualification, or not burdening those who choose a university pathway with a debt sentence that will take a lifetime to repay, [we] are determined to make education an issue worth voting on.”
Commenting on the CVCU’s protest outside his Lismore office, Mr Hogan said he returned to his office not long after the activists had left and that his office was not notified that the advocates would be there.
“The issue is important,” Mr Hogan said. “I back what the senator has said.
“And I believe in Gonski and the needs-based formula, which is paramount and advantageous to our region.
“Funding is increasing over every year, but I acknowledge that years five and six will not increase as much as some would like.
“The money that we [the government] give to education; there is more coming to our region from that pool on a needs-based basis.
“Not one school will be one cent worse off from 2013 to the next election – both governments [Coalition and Labor] have adhered to the same formula.”
CVCU also announced that it is supporting the ACTU’s Build a Better Future campaign, which it will launch at the South Grafton Ex-Servicemens Club on October 14 at 6pm.
Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon is the guest speaker.