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University funding cuts cause severe indigestion for government

Taking the heat: Education minister Christopher Pyne is facing a strong voter backlash over university cuts.

Taking the heat: Education minister Christopher Pyne is facing a strong voter backlash over university cuts.

Crossbench senators with an ear to popular opinion could become even less co-operative when university cuts come before them, with new polling showing the Coalition’s changes are poison in voter-land.

Extensive automated phone polling across 23 federal electorates taking in all states has found cuts in federal funding and changes to allow increased fees, higher loan charges, and access to limited federal funding by non-university course providers, have not gone over well with households.

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Sixty-nine per cent of those polled said they opposed “significant increases in fees” and 65 per cent said they opposed a 20 per cent funding cut.

And just 28 per cent of voters said they approved of the idea of deregulating the higher education sector to allow privately owned higher education institutions to have access to Commonwealth subsidies.

The strong negative reaction has fuelled a fierce voter backlash sending Coalition stocks plummeting in a more than 10 per cent swing away from the government averaged across the 23 seats.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne appears to have taken much of the blame and would currently lose his electorate of Sturt in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs in a 15 per cent swing away from him, propelled by a disastrous approval rating of minus 14 per cent.

He retained the seat easily at the 2013 election securing 54 per cent of the primary vote for a two-party-preferred result of 60 per cent.

Now, his primary support has dropped to 41 per cent – a 13 per cent slump or a 15 per cent drop after preferences.

The UMR “robo-poll”, which uses  computerised automatic dialling and interviewing, was conducted for the National Tertiary Education Union.

It was taken one month after the budget over the period June 14 to 29, 2014, surveying 23,176 people.

The union’s national president Jeannie Rea said it showed voters were more switched on than the government understood, and were extremely concerned about the quality of higher education and the issue of accessibility.

“Both Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott promised no changes to higher education funding arrangements prior to the election. Yet we are now presented with the most dramatic changes in over a generation,” Ms Rea said.

“University funding will be cut, fees will go up and private providers will be subsidised by taxpayers."

“Parents don’t want to see their kids locked out of going to university, or saddled with debts of over $100,000.”

In June Mr Pyne defended the cuts to university funding telling the ABC’s Insiders program they were based on fairness and sustainability.

“I think that the contribution that students make can be rebalanced,” he said.

“At the moment the taxpayers are funding 60 per cent of the tuition fees of university students, and universities' students are making up 40 per cent. Under our changes, it will be 50-50.”

Tony Abbott's approval rating is now minus 31 per cent – in stark contrast to the Parliament’s most respected MP, fellow coalition member, Darren Chester.

The Gipplsand MP has an approval rating of 31 per cent with just one in five of his constituents disapproving of his performance compared with 52 per cent who are happy with the way he represents his electors.

The next most popular MPs in the seats polled were Perth MP, Alannah MacTiernan, who has an approval rating from her electors of 30 per cent; Adelaide MP Kate Ellis, whose electorate shares a boundary with Mr Pyne and whose electors rate her positively with an approval score of 24 per cent.

Two other Labor MPs round out the top five: Victoria’s Anna Burke and NSW MP Matt Thistlethwaite. Four of the five next most popular MPs are from the Coalition.

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399 comments

  • Time to get this mob out!

    Commenter
    Jo
    Date and time
    July 14, 2014, 7:12AM
    • Could it be true that Pyne is in danger of losing his seat? Wouldn't that be a delicious result? What will someone who has never had a job in the real world do? I can't see many employers lining up for his skills given the perpetual undergraduate maturity he's shown.

      Commenter
      Thomas Gale
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Trouble is they're all bad. They've killed our country's future. All of them.

      Commenter
      JohnBB
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 7:58AM
    • Understand the theory of large student loans and the Keynesian multiplier. The problem is that if there is insufficient employment, the taxpayer is left with a large inflating liability on the balance sheet. If you are going to run deficits make them cyclical not structural. Just ask Greece (or China). Large student debt is just bad economics and poor social policy.

      Commenter
      Bang Bang
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:04AM
    • ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.... the sweet poetry of politics

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:31AM
    • Judging from the fact that his colleagues put him in charge of education ministry for his self-delusion of his importance as a minister, one has to wonder how much concerns the current mob, led by a deceitful liar, really have for this country.and its people but their own power..

      I'd suggest that Christopher Pyne's talent would best suit a spokesman for something like the Prostitute Collective of Australia or even a Communist propaganda outlet of a time past.

      I mean the man simply BELIEVES in his own spin. It's extremely hard for a self-delusional person to SEE things outside his head..

      I rest my case.

      Commenter
      an observer
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:39AM
    • Bang Bang, that is true only if you don't expand the economy. The problem is that this government is trying to shut down anything that expands the economy. Renewables - shut it down. NBN - shut it down. And at the same time shutting down industries that are needed to keep capacity and technological level up, like the car industry.

      This government has no idea how to run an economy. They are economically incompetent.

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:43AM
    • It is time to pay. Labour brought in HECS. Now it's time for all including TAFE students to get a chance. Fair go for all and not just Uni students.

      Commenter
      Kiser
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:43AM
    • The trouble is, Thomas Gale, we would be keeping him for ever more on his parliamentary pension. And some Liberal party 'mate' would find him a job where he could hide, irrelevant of his lack of ability.

      Commenter
      The Genuine Article
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:48AM
    • Jo
      "Time to kick this mob out".
      Not until they've finished "rescuing" Australia surely?

      Commenter
      rext
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 8:49AM

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