ACT Senator Zed Seselja has accused Chief Minister Andrew Barr of failing to support the University of Canberra, as the Australian National University says a billion-dollar research fund will save jobs.
The Liberal senator lashed Mr Barr on Wednesday over claims the ACT government would have to "continue shouldering the burden on job creation in the territory over the next two years".
Mr Barr also said there was no clear plan to protect uni jobs in the budget, which would "leave many Canberrans nervous about their job prospects".
This is despite Australian National University Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt saying the $1 billion research fund announced on Tuesday night would go a long way to assisting the university sector as it meets the challenges of COVID-19.
The university had been due to cut 215 jobs.
"Here at ANU, this new funding will mean that we will be able to save jobs," Professor Schmidt said.
"We are still in for a tough time and we will need to cut some jobs due to falling revenue and COVID-19. But, this short-term boost means more of our researchers can keep doing important work."
Senator Seselja said Mr Barr's claim the ACT was doing the heavy lifting was "embarrassing and petulant".
"Just between JobKeeper and the cash flow support for business, [the Commonwealth has provided] over $1.2 billion here in Canberra since March. That's a huge amount of money," Senator Seselja said.
"Andrew Barr leads a government that according to the Grattan Institute has the worst response economically of any jurisdiction in terms of as a proportion of their GDP so they haven't been doing the heavy lifting on the economy, they've been supported by the Commonwealth.
"We're very pleased to support Canberrans but he shouldn't pretend otherwise. He shouldn't pretend that he's been doing the heavy lifting when he simply has not ."
Senator Seselja also said the ACT government could have provided more support to the university of Canberra during the crisis.
"Of course there's been challenges [for the university sector] but Andrew Barr is also responsible for one of the largest higher education institutions in the city, in the University of Canberra so he has a role to play," Senator Seselja said.
"Given he's given so little support to business, Jon Stanhope says it's been miserly, the Grattan institute says it's been the worst in the country, perhaps he could have been giving some more support, not just to the University of Canberra but to the private sector which is crying out for it."
However, Mr Barr accused Senator Seselja of "wilful neglect" of the university sector.
"This is coming from an individual who has failed to support the higher education sector throughout his career and we've put forward a very strong package of investment into the ACT university sector," Mr Barr said.
"They have completely ignored the biggest employer outside of government in the territory and the single biggest export industry and what we have seen from Senator Seselja is that wilful neglect throughout his entire career, in the senate and in the ACT Legislative Assembly. I'm not going to be lectured by Zed Seselja on support for higher education."
Mr Barr also stepped up his criticism of the federal government over their refusal to waive the ACT's historic social housing loan.
While the territory got an interest and repayments reprieve on a $2 million historic loan, their calls to waive or refinance the $115 million loan have been ignored.
"I raise it in every second meeting, I've met with him [Frydenberg] about 50 times in the last couple of years, I have written to him on about eight occasions," Mr Barr said.
"They have waived these loans for Tasmania I ask at the very least they refinance them at the interest rate that we can borrow at now, which is around 1.6 per cent... that's all we're asking for at the moment and we're still not getting it.
Senator Seselja could do something useful with this vote in the senate in the way that Jacqui Lambie did for Tasmania and get his colleague across the line on this because we guarantee we would invest that extra money in more social housing."