Universities to regain hundreds of millions of dollars if Senate blocks bill

The Abbott government could be forced to repay hundreds of millions of dollars it has withheld from universities if legislation for an “efficiency dividend” does not pass the Senate by early subsequent 12 months.

Most of the public debate about university funding has targeted on the twenty% typical lower to program subsidies that would coincide with the Coalition’s deregulation of tuition fees from 2016.

But the government has currently lowered payments to universities to reflect a separate Labor-initiated efficiency dividend that has not nevertheless been place to a vote in the Senate.

Division of Training officials have justified reductions in 2014 “advance payments” on the basis the Coalition intends to proceed with the legislation. Officials admit the government will have to proper the amounts owed to universities if the bill has not passed by the time of the standard “reconciliation” of payments in the first half of 2015.

The former Gillard government proposed efficiency dividends on university funding of 2% in 2014 and one.25% in 2015 as element of a prepare to fund the Gonski school reforms. It was estimated to raise about $ 900m more than four many years.

But when the Abbott government sought to legislate the measure late final 12 months, Labor decided to join with the Greens in opposing it, saying the Coalition had undermined Gonski.

The bill remains “before the Senate” – that means it is nevertheless to be formally rejected or passed. In the meantime the government has produced payments to universities assuming the efficiency dividend will pass.

A spokesman for the training minister, Christopher Pyne, explained the government intended to proceed with the legislation. “The Larger Education Support Amendment Bill 2013, which covers commonwealth grant arrangements for 2014 and 2015, stays just before the Senate as a monument of Labor’s hypocrisy in not passing their very own bill and rectifying the debt and deficit legacy the previous government left behind.”

Labor’s increased education spokesman, Kim Carr, stated Labor was “adamant” in its determination to oppose the bill simply because the government had reneged on school funding.

Carr mentioned the Senate’s selection in July to strike down an linked regulation indicated the will of the upper property was against the higher education cuts.

The government would have to correct any underpayments in the funding reconciliation method in March or April subsequent year, he stated.

“The government has claimed that the legislation permits them to withhold the money, legislation-pending. The point is that there comes a time when that can’t be sustained,” Carr said.

“While the government can delay, they cannot in the finish refuse to spend [the money] without a deliberative vote of the Senate.”

The Greens senator Lee Rhiannon explained universities have been firing employees and shifting to a a lot more casualised workforce and the government was “egging them on by stripping back funding”.

“Despite lacking parliamentary help for his $ 900m minimize to university funding, Mr Pyne has gone ahead and implemented the cuts anyway – hurting universities, college students and personnel this yr,” she said. “It displays a fundamental lack of respect for the democratic process and for the university sector.”

In January this 12 months, following Labor and the Greens opposed the efficiency dividend legislation, Pyne’s office said the government had informed universities it was “considering its options” but in the meantime advance payments would be produced “without the efficiency dividend but applied”.

National Tertiary Schooling Union’s policy and research coordinator, Paul Kniest, explained the government essential to make clear why it ended up applying the efficiency dividend to advance payments, without searching for to put the legislation to a vote.

He mentioned: “Why has it left universities large and dry, not receiving the funds this 12 months?”

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