Labor backbencher Janelle Saffin questioned the merit of cutting university spending to help pay for the National Plan for School Improvement.
Labor backbencher Janelle Saffin questioned the merit of cutting university spending to help pay for the National Plan for School Improvement. Cathy Adams

Coalition has not ruled out proceeding with education cuts

THE Coalition has not ruled out proceeding with the government's proposed cuts to university spending after it was revealed the legislation dealing with the measures would not be put to the Parliament until after the election.

Labor announced in April savings totalling $2.8 billion from tertiary education, including changes to self education expenses, to help pay for the Gonski school funding reforms.

Science and Research Minister Don Farrell told Senate estimates on Monday night the legislation would be introduced in the spring session of Parliament.

With just about every poll pointing to a Coalition victory on September 14, it means proceeding with the cuts would be a decision for a Tony Abbott-led government.

APN Newsdesk asked opposition spokesman for universities and research Brett Mason if a Coalition government would proceed with the cuts.

"The Coalition has indicated we will have to carefully weigh up all of Labor's cuts and we will make a decision on that in the months ahead - we can't fix six years of mismanagement overnight,: Senator Mason said in a statement.

"Both the disease and the tough cure are of Labor's doing; as such they bear the whole responsibility for them.

"They made the problem, they own the problem."

In his budget reply speech Mr Abbott said the Coalition did not agree with "robbing Peter to pay Paul on education", but like Senator Mason did not rule out keeping the measures in government.

The measures include increasing the efficiency dividend, converting student scholarships to loans and scrapping discounts for early HECS payments.

It came as Labor backbencher Janelle Saffin questioned the merit of cutting university spending to help pay for the National Plan for School Improvement.

Ms Saffin issued a statement on Tuesday encouraging people in Page to have their say about the proposed changes to deductions for educational expenses, which would achieve a saving of $500 million.

The Federal Government wants to impose a $2000 cap on deductions for work-related education expenses starting from July 1 next year.

"I support the plan but, like the rest of the community, I have questioned why we have to make an impact in other areas of education, this one and also our universities," said Ms Saffin, whose seat is home to the headquarters of Southern Cross University.

"Ours is a university region, and one with big health and education industries, and as your local federal member I am sticking up for us.

"Local professionals have told me that this could disadvantage rural doctors and other professionals in regional areas, who need to travel for conferences and courses to maintain their qualifications, so I am encouraging as many of us as possible to have our say.

"I believe that we can make our voices heard on this as there is such a long lead up time and there is this community consultation period."

The discussion paper is online and written submissions will be accepted until July 12.

Universities Australia will begin an ad blitz in 80 federal seats around the country this opposing the cuts.

The peak body also released research this week which showed the issue could be a vote changer.


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