The Labor government has moved to restrict questioning on its policy and spending decisions concerning tertiary and vocational education ahead of senate estimates next week, the Coalition’s Regional Education spokesperson, Senator Nash, said.
Senate estimates is a longstanding parliamentary process in which senators ask government ministers and department officials questions, to ensure accountability and that taxpayers’ money is well spent.
In a bizarre move, the government yesterday introduced a motion to move tertiary and vocational education to the senate economics committee, with the support of the Greens.
“This move shows that the government views tertiary and vocational education as a financial issue, which is extraordinary – the economics committee is not the place for education,” Senator Nash said.
“It means only an hour and ¾ will be allowed for questions on tertiary and vocational education due to the economics committee’s already large agenda whereas more than four hours was allocated by the senate education, employment and workplace committee, where these portfolios properly belong.
“There are many important issues within the tertiary and vocational education sectors that need to be raised, including at a regional level.
“The shortage of graduates, skills and labour in regional Australia is one example where the Coalition has been working with stakeholders to find solutions.
“There is also the need to address the gap in higher education participation rates between regional and metropolitan Australia.”
Senator Nash added the government cut nearly $1 billion in higher education and student support funding in its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook late last year. It includes measures related to youth allowance.
“We’ve already seen the Labor government’s contempt for regional students in its earlier changes to independent youth allowance, before it was forced into an embarrassing backdown last September,” she said.
“Its contempt for accountability through senate estimates is just as bad. It’s a sad day when a government interferes with this important parliamentary process.”
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