May 23, 2014

A floral tribute to the federal MPs who got a free ride at uni

Christopher Pyne reckons students should send flowers to taxpayers to say thanks for their education. Freelance journalist Sally Whyte discovers there ought to be a lot of flowers coming from Parliament House.

After students took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the deregulation of university fees, Education Minister Christopher Pyne told Alan Jones on 2GB yesterday that they “should be buying a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates and visiting a home near them where they know someone hasn’t been to university, knocking on the front door and saying, ‘thank you very much for paying for my education'”.

The minister was defending the government’s plan to completely deregulate university fees from 2016; Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he can’t guarantee that fees won’t double for many courses.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

51 thoughts on “A floral tribute to the federal MPs who got a free ride at uni

  1. Ian Roberts

    If it’s true what you’ve written about Pyne’s university education, then he told a bald-faced lie on Q&A last week.

  2. Andrew Greville

    When Bernard Keane first raised this childish argument last week, I let it slide, but now Sally Whyte has made a feature out of it, I can’t sit still.

    Through circumstances beyond my control, I share a similar demographic profile with the Liberal cabinet. So yes, I got a “free ride” at University. Our age group was fortunate in this regard, without question.

    However we bought our first house without a homeowner’s grant. We raised our children without subsidised childcare. Paid parental leave, if available at all, was for four weeks, and for mothers only. The marginal tax rate was 60%, and the 47% rate kicked in at about $19,000. Family Tax Benefit A and B didn’t exist. Our country was shameful in its neglect of indigenous people – barely any money was spent on “closing the gap”. Disability Insurance? Forget it. Interest rates for our first mortgage were likely between 16% and 21%, and unemployment was double digits.

    This probably sounds like a whinge, but it isn’t meant to be. I am incredibly lucky to have been born here, and to have made the most of my free tertiary education. But surely Bernard and Sally are smart enough to realise that all of the things listed above are paid for out of the same pot of money that heavily subsidises university education today. If you want to make tertiary education cheaper, which ones are you prepared to take back to ensure that my generation’s first mortgage rates remain the high water mark?

  3. Bo Gainsbourg

    I think this article is a bit misleading. The fees that the Libs are proposing to bring in in future are much higher than those quoted, presumably real terms adjusted from the 70’s. It would be more accurate to look at those higher dollar figures they are expecting people to pay. And perhaps as a demonstration of principle they could now offer to pay for the degrees that they got for free that they think others should now pay for. As to Andrew Greville’s comment, a simple tweak to superannuation concessions for the super rich could make universities free again. If we are really that concerned about budget and funding. But this was never about that. Its about shutting out the average person from university and creating a U.S. style 1%-er economy, and its not over yet.

  4. jmendelssohn

    I think you will find that Malcolm Turnbull had a Commonwealth Scholarship, so paid no fees.

  5. Liberstand

    Yes Sally, it’s ironic. Great article.

  6. ianjohnno

    Bill Shorton has a master’s degree of business administration.
    That begins to explain a few things.

  7. Scott

    Come on Andrew

    No Capital Gains Tax, No Fringe Benefits Tax, No GST…all of which were introduced in 1985 or later.
    Over the years the tax take/GDP has increased from around 22% of GDP during the wonder years of free uni eduction to its present take of around 26%.
    House prices….average 2 times household incomes until the late 80’s when they started their climb to the now 4-5 times. Means smaller loans. Who cares if you have a 16% loan on $50,000…better than a 6% loan on $300,000

    I’m a fan of the uni changes (having paid my HECS upfront as a mature age student, I have increased my earning power quite dramatically) but lets not pretend that the oldies had it easier.

  8. Scott Grant

    Hmmmm. The neo-liberal mind at work, in all its nonsensical irrationality, with the implication that every individual should pay for anything from which they might derive a benefit. (Major corporations are excluded, of course). As Maggie Thatcher said, “. . . there is no such thing as society.”.

    If I owe my neighbour flowers for my degree, then perhaps he can return the favour for his pension, or the paved road outside the house, or the F35 fighter jets, or the disability pension for his daughter, or subsidised healthcare. And the mining companies should definitely be giving us all flowers for their diesel subsidies. Then there are the large international software and computer companies who get a virtual free ride at the expense of taxpayers everywhere.

    Perhaps I will send them all a note that I want no flowers, and would they please donate the money to the unemployed who are about to lose their already pitiful income.

  9. jimpintin

    As someone who paid for most of their tertiary education I think the ‘ they got it free, so should we’ argument is weak and immature and should be dropped immediately. Surely we should be strongly pointing out to the Coalition and the public the long term damage to our society and economy of restricting access to tertiary (and any other) education on any grounds other than abilty. Free education and health is possible if we curtailed the ability of the wealthy to massively reduce their taxable income and dropped the obsession with tax cuts. No sign of ALP willingness to do either, too many of them benefit.

  10. Scott Grant

    I forgot to mention TAFE. Fee’s there have gone through the roof, recently, as well, although all the commentary I see is about Universities.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details