Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1599      June 26, 2013

NTEU to spend $1 million on election campaign to defend higher education

In an historic move, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) voted last week to spend $1 million on an election campaign to defend higher education in the September federal election.

“This is a watershed decision for our union. We are deeply concerned about the impact of a Coalition government on higher education, and the latest $2.3 billion cuts by the Gillard government to universities and student support left us no alternative. We feel compelled to act in defence of universities and Australia’s future as a smart country,” Jeannie Rea, national NTEU president, said today.

NTEU will run its own campaign in support of maintaining the Greens’ balance of power in the Senate and the election of selected lower house candidates who commit to the union’s election priorities.

“To be clear, NTEU will be campaigning on issues important to higher education and our members. We will not be making any donations to the Greens, or any individual candidate.

“We don’t want to see the Labor government voted out and a Coalition government voted in but the ALP needs to hear loud and clear that the $4 billion cuts to higher education since 2011 are plain dumb and undermining this country’s capacity to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“We are under no illusion that, should the Coalition win control of the Senate, higher education will be amongst the first to feel the brunt of Tony Abbott’s axe. The decision by the Greens to elevate university cuts as a top election priority provides the NTEU with an unprecedented opportunity to make higher education funding a real issue in the federal election campaign.”

The decision to intervene in the election campaign was made today by a special meeting of the NTEU’s National Council. Over 120 delegates have been meeting in Canberra since Sunday (16 June).

Rea said it was the first time in its 20-year history that the NTEU had called together a special meeting of its national council.

“We’re seeking their commitment to a 10 percent increase in real funding per student, as recommended by the Bradley Review, better student income support (and less debt), and the use of the balance of power to block any further university cuts and any future Coalition industrial relations measures aimed at undermining trade union and collective bargaining rights,” she said.

The union says the latest cuts undermine some of Labor’s positive initiatives in higher education and mean even more casual staff, bigger workloads and more pressure on the ability of universities to give students the quality education they deserve. “Universities are at breaking point. The response from our members on these latest cuts has been unprecedented.”

NTEU is not and has never been affiliated to any political party. It has 28,000 members in universities, TAFEs and research institutes.

Key aims of the campaign are:

  • reversal of the latest $2.3bn cuts.
  • a 10% increase in real funding per student.
  • no further university cuts.
  • no industrial relations measures aimed at undermining trade union and collective bargaining rights.

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