Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mandatory student fees: Coalition split as Michael McCormack says fees important to regional universities

What is not mentioned below is that for many years student fees were used to  pay for Far-Left political agitation

There is division within the Federal Government over whether university students should pay a compulsory services charge that helps fund student unions and services.

Nationals MP Michael McCormack says his party is likely to oppose any move from the Coalition to abolish the fees.

There were reports today that Education Minister Christopher Pyne plans to scrap the mandatory fees, which are collected by universities who then distribute the money to student unions for on-campus services.

It is not the first time the issue has caused a split within the Coalition: Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce crossed the floor in 2005 when the Howard government first axed the fees.

The Rudd government then reinstated them in 2007.

Mr Pyne clarified his position on ABC Radio today, saying that while the Government remains opposed to the fees, it is "not a priority" of the Coalition to get rid of them.

But Mr McCormack told triple j's Hack program that the funds are essential to regional university campuses.  He said Nationals senator Fiona Nash was also against the fees, and National Party members were "surprised and shocked" at the reports today.

Mr McCormack says that while he is not sure if Mr Pyne intends to scrap the fees, but any decision should go before the entire Coalition.  "I think perhaps it has to go to a backbench committee where we have regional Liberals, as well as National Party members, who can argue the point on behalf of regional universities and regional students that the student services and amenities fee is an integral part of regional universities campuses," he said.

Mr McCormack says the Liberal Party is ideologically against compulsory unionism, but a blanket approach will not benefit regional universities.

"The Liberal Party, let's face it, are against compulsory unionism, they're against having to pay that fee that might otherwise go towards things that the people who are paying the fees don't want or need," he said.

"I think this isn't so much of a funding issue so much as it is an ideology. Whilst it might be philosophically important for those city unis to not have compulsory unionism, to not have compulsory fees, out here in the bush things are different, students are different.

"Certainly in this instance it's something I don't think has necessarily been totally thought through."

Ian Young, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, says there is "clearly an ideological view" within Coalition regarding mandatory student fees.

"I think it's been a policy within the Liberal Party in particular for quite some time," he said.

"I guess the job for myself and my fellow vice-chancellors is to be able to explain that this is not a student union fee and that it's something that is really important to the rich education for both Australian students and also for international students who study here in Australia."


Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie claims last Tasmanian Senate spot

Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie has picked up Tasmania's sixth Senate seat.  The Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the results this morning after preferences were distributed from the September 7 poll.

The race for the last seat had been too close to call, but the former Army corporal prevailed with a margin of about 15,000 votes over Liberal hopeful Sally Chandler and Robbie Swan from the Australian Sex Party.

Ms Lambie, a mother of two, lives in Tasmania's north-west and was in Hobart this morning to wait for the results.  She says there will be little time for celebrations and she will spend the day pulling down her election posters.

Ms Lambie says she is passionate about veterans issues and plans to focus on freight issues which are troubling the island state.   "It's a core issue, the negative effect that's coming our of's just not good for Tasmania whatsoever," she said.

"So I'd like to get straight onto that and fix up our freight and passenger services and get something down on the table and that is not going to come at a cheap price."

She says Tasmania is in a dire financial situation.  "Use Clive Palmer and his contacts and his business smarts to see if we can get Tasmania back on its feet," she said.  About 20,000 Tasmanians voted for Mr Palmer's party.

Earlier this month, Ms Lambie dubbed the Liberal Party a "boys club" and warned she would be harder for Tony Abbott to deal with than Pauline Hanson.  She previously said she did not support the PUP's push to scrap the carbon tax but has since changed her position.

"The Palmer United Party has better solutions that won't cost the taxpayer, so we'll keep putting those issues through and across the table."  "It is the underdog who is actually paying for this and we don't want to so their sufferance any longer."

Ms Lambie is the second PUP candidate elected to the Senate after former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus won a seat in Queensland.

A possible third Senate seat could go to the party when Western Australia's tally is finalised next week.


New Greenie leader is already a lame duck

FORMER Greens leader Bob Brown has refused to defend his successor Christine Milne as tensions rise in the minor party following an exodus of staff.

It was revealed yesterday that many staff members in Senator Milne’s office have applied for redundancies in the wake of the September 7 election where the Greens lost more than 400,000 votes and suffered a negative swing.

She has lost a total of six staffers in recent weeks.  One high profile departure is that of Senator Milne’s highly regarded chief of staff Ben Oquist, who served Dr Brown and stayed on when he stepped down from the party in 2012.

 Former Greens leader Bon Brown won’t comment on Christine Milne’s leadership style.  “Sorry I just have no comment,” he said when asked if he had spoken to Mr Oquist.

 Green leader Christine Milne denies that the resignations are a sign her leadership is on shaky ground.

Dr Brown, 68, retired from his position as Greens Leader in April 2012. He said he wanted to have a quieter life at the time.

Dr Brown was widely credited with boosting the Greens vote and was hugely popular among young and older voters alike.  He currently devotes his efforts to environmental protection and works with anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd.

Senator Milne last night defended the exodus of staff from her office. She confirmed to the ABC’s Lateline program that six staff members had tendered their resignations but dismissed claims her leadership was on shaky ground.

She said some staff had indicated last year they would stay with her until the election, and some had given personal reasons for leaving.

“It’s quite common in politics after an election for people to consider whether they want to stay on or not,” Senator Milne said.

Mr Oquist issued a statement saying he was leaving with good will but cited “fundamental differences of opinion about strategy”.

Asked about his reason last night Senator Milne said: “interesting that Ben would say that.”  “I wish Ben very well with his endeavours in the future,” she said.

The Coalition has indicated it intends to cut the staff allocation to the Greens’ leader by up to a third.  “That is further reason for restructure of the office,” a spokesman said.


Australia: 23 million and counting

Australia's population is about to tick past the 23 million mark as the country continues to grow at the fastest rate in the developed world.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics population counter will tick over to 23 million at 9.57pm. Social researchers say the milestone baby will - statistically - be a boy called Jack. Odds suggest his mother will be 31, his father 33 and he will live in western Sydney.

Jack isn't real, of course. His likely arrival time has been reached by averaging the expected number of births, deaths and net overseas migration intake (incoming residents minus outgoing) since data was last collected in September 2012.

What is known is our annual population growth rate of 1.7 per cent - 1048 people per day, or the equivalent of a new Gold Coast every 19 months - is the fastest of any OECD country. The US is growing at 0.9 per cent, and Britain at just 0.6 per cent.

The world's population is growing at 1.1 per cent, having surpassed 7 billion people in late 2011. Australia's population growth is even outstripping countries with traditionally high birth rates, such as India on 1.4 per cent.

Demographers say it is migration, rather than an elevated birth rate, that is the main driver spurring Australia's growth.  Net overseas migration accounted for 60 per cent of Australia's population increase last year, with the proportion from births falling from 46 per cent to 40 per cent.

Bob Birrell, from Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, said aside from a surge in the early 2000s, Australia's fertility rate (the number of children per woman) has remained stable at about 1.9.

Dr Birrell said the population was driven upwards by people on temporary visas, who make up about half of the growth in net migration. "Working holiday makers, visitors, 457 visa holders, New Zealanders - they have all been going up sharply," he said.

"There is no cap on working holiday makers and we are a very attractive destination now for people from Ireland, Taiwan, England, where the labour markets are dead."

Almost two-thirds of permanent arrivals last year were on some kind of working visa. Thirty per cent were on family visas and 7 per cent on humanitarian visas.

Bjorn Jarvis, director of demography at the ABS, pointed out that the 488,100 permanent arrivals last year was proportionally a smaller group relative to the rest of the population than the influx following World War II.

In 1918, Australia's population was just 5 million. It passed 10 million in 1959, 15 million in 1982, and 20 million in 2003. While a lesser contributor than migration, births still hit a record high last year, surpassing 300,000 for the first time. Australia recorded twice as many births (303,600) as deaths (149,100). By 2028 there will be more people aged over 60 than under 20.

Professor Billie Giles-Corti, director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre at Melbourne University, warned that the health system would be overwhelmed unless the elderly remained fit and active.

She said people in retirement housing close to shops and services did better than those living further out, even if they had facilities in their own village.


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