Government Senators Dissenting Report
The Government Senators of the Committee note that the
Government is committed to improving the participation of underrepresented
groups in education, including rural and regional students.
Government Senators note that the Government has undertaken
a wide range of reforms which will begin to address these issues including the
reforms adopted as part of COAG to provide support and reform for 1500 low socio-economic
status (SES) school communities across the country ($1.5 billion from the
Commonwealth which will be matched by the states), improve the quality of
teaching ($550 million from the Commonwealth), increase school leaving age,
improve transparency and renew school infrastructure through the Building the
The Government has also undertaken major reforms to tertiary
education after adopting a range of findings in response to the Bradley Review
and allocating an additional $5.4 billion in the last budget for higher
education and research. The Government’s comprehensive reform program includes
the adoption of demand driven funding, substantial new infrastructure funding,
improved indexation of funds, better targeting of student income support to
better direct support to those who need it most, a substantial low SES loading,
equity partnership programs and performance funding, a new national regulator
and the movement towards the full cost of research.
Government Senators note that the Government’s reform agenda
is about increasing participation and expanding access to tertiary education
and improving quality. The range and scope of the Government’s reforms has been
lauded by educationalists with the response to the Bradley Review heralded as
‘visionary’ by the Go8 in response to the last budget.
The combined impact of these reforms will be an increase in
access to education and quality of education – this will mean better
educational outcomes for low SES students and regional students.
In total, this Government has increased education spending
by around 50 per cent in real terms over the current five year period compared
to the previous one.
The Government is working hard to turn around the shameful
legacy of neglect that occurred under the previous Government.
Under the previous Government low SES participation rates in
higher education languished at around 15 per cent.
Regional participation rates fell from 18.715 per cent to
18.08 per cent from 2002 – 2007 (25.4 per cent of the population come from
Remote participation rates fell from 1.27 per cent to 1.12
per cent over the same period (2.5 per cent of the population come from remote
While Government Senators commend the interest that
Opposition Senators now show in education, they believe the majority report
does not fully explain the legacy of policy failure of the previous Government
and the way that this has curtailed the opportunity for all students.
Furthermore Chapter 3 does not present an accurate and fair assessment of the
Government’s proposed changes to Youth Allowance and the widespread support
these reforms have received from universities, students and educationalists.
Government Senators wish to highlight the fact that the
Government’s broad reform agenda – including the proposed reforms to Youth
Allowance – will assist students from low income backgrounds to achieve the
educational qualifications they need for sustainable employment. These changes
will better support students that need it most, including regional and rural
Response to Recommendation 1
Government Senators welcome the intention of Recommendation
1 which is to increase participation in secondary education and ensure all
students, regardless of location or background, have opportunities to access
education. However, Government Senators note that the Government is already
pushing forward with a massive reform agenda through its COAG reform process
which will increase high school attainment nationally.
The Government is best placed to determine processes it uses
to expand participation in, and quality of, education after the shameful
neglect of the previous Government.
Response to Recommendation 2
Government Senators welcome the intention of this
recommendation. The Government Senators note that the Government has already
announced their National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy worth $540
million entitled ‘Foundation skills in literacy and numeracy’ as part of its
broader education strategy in addition to the other measures outlined above.
Details of the Government’s reforms in this area can be
assessed at the DEEWR website
Response to Recommendation 3
Government Senators note that the Assistance for Isolated
Children (AIC) scheme supports eligible primary, secondary and tertiary
students who are unable to attend an appropriate government school on a daily
basis because of their geographic isolation. The scheme provides financial
assistance to families for the costs of boarding and other expenses for their
children. In 2008, AIC assisted 11,212 rural and isolated school students at a
cost of $60.7 million.
From 1 January 2008, the AIC scheme was enhanced in the
- a $1,000 Distance Education supplement (rising to $1,045 in 2009)
became payable to all recipients of the AIC Distance Education Allowance.
- The AIC Additional Boarding Allowance increased by $1,000 to
$2,164 in 2008 (rising to $2,261 in 2009).
The Government will promote its participation agenda through
the COAG reform process.
Response to Recommendation 4
Government Senators note that if the Government’s student
income support legislation had been passed by the Senate all eligible students
who need to move from home to study would have received a Relocation
Scholarship worth $4,000 in the first year on top of a Student Start up
scholarship for every year they are at university worth $2,253 ($1,434 in the
transition year of 2010 only).
Opposition Senators can still deliver this support to
regional students by passing the Government’s legislation when it is debated
Response to Recommendation 5
Government Senators note that almost $5 billion in capital
funding to the tertiary sector has been committed since the Rudd Government
took office. The guidelines of the Better Universities Renewal Funding (BURF)
and Teaching and Learning Capital Fund (TLC) for Higher Education (HE) funds
worth $1 billion in total were broad enough to allow universities to spend this
on student housing.
Response to Recommendation 6
Government Senators note that the Henry Review is currently
considering other issues in terms of adequacy and the Government has committed
to a review of the new system which will look at issues like this.
Response to Recommendation 7
Government Senators note that the Government will carefully
monitor the results of its new system which is aimed at supporting students and
ensuring that institutions are more responsive to student needs. A demand
driven system and reformed student income support will provide students with
more choices as to where to study.
Response to Recommendation 8
Government Senators note that there are already a range of
HECS remission policies in place which have already been adopted by this
Government to encourage graduates to work in priority fields or areas.
Government Senators agree that increasing access to
education should be a top priority of Government. We note that the Rudd
Government is marshalling a huge reform program which will make a difference to
thousands of students who will be able to access education for the first time
and thousands more who will have better school facilities and a higher quality
There are a number of recommendations which, while well
meaning, duplicate work processes already underway. Unlike the previous one the
Rudd Government will not stand idly by and watch participation of under
represented groups go backwards.
Government Senators note that to help improve regional
access to education Non Government Senators first need to vote to pass the
Government’s reforms to student income support. We would also encourage
Committee members to make a submission to the Government’s review of the
|Senator Glenn Sterle
|Senator Kerry O'Brien
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