31 October 2014
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, as I said in my speech, it’s very good that the Australian institute of management is doing it’s extremely world famous and award winning MBA program online. It will mean more access for more students and because they’re now VET FEE-HELP providers, the reforms the government is proposing is already starting to be seen how they will work in practise. Whether the competition between traditional universities and new players and high quality higher education institutions like the Australian Institute of Management. And this online course, I think will be a great success for them and will be a model for many other useful technologies in terms of online education.
JOURNALIST: So are you going to be able to get these reforms through when the Palmer United Party has publicly said they’re not going to support it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I’m very hopeful, I’m very hopeful. I mean, the Palmer United Party has said several times over the past few months that they will definitely not support particular government programs but after negotiation and amendment, they did in the end support those particular things. Like the carbon tax, the mining tax, this week direct action, the FOFA reforms – the financial advice reforms. So I am hopeful that if we keep talking that we will bring about an outcome that is good for students and also good for universities.
JOURNALIST: And have you made a compromise on ex-interest rates?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well so far there have been no compromises or negotiated outcomes announced. We’ll continue to talk. Obviously the 10 year government bond rate applying to that HECS Debt is on the of areas where we have been talking and there has been speculation about, but there’s been no official announcements about and negotiated settlement yet and I think we’re some weeks away from that. Parliaments not sitting for another three weeks and we’ll probably deal with this when we come back.
JOURNALIST: It can’t be good though that people in your own party don’t support your reforms.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Everyone in my party supports our reforms….
JOURNALIST: With existing interest rates?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Sure…who doesn’t?
JOURNALIST: That was an idea of the Committee giving advice that changes are…
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Oh. They said that was one of the areas we could look at in the Senate Committee Report. They said that there were four or five areas that you could make changes and one of them was to adopt the 10 years Government bond rate when the student was paying back the Higher Education Contribution Scheme. But when they weren’t paying it back, it would go back to the CPI rate, so if you were in and out of the workforce for example then you wouldn’t pay 10 year government bond rate when you are out of the workforce but I’m very open to that, and I’ve said that from the very beginning and that was a recommendation by the majority of the committee which was a Coalition majority so, as I said, I’ve been open to this from the beginning, they certainly support our reforms very strongly and they recommended they be passed.
JOURNALIST: So in relation to the Nova Peris incident, do you think that News Corp went too far in publishing too many personal details?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, I don’t think there’s anything to gain by commenting on that story. Nova Peris has made a statement in the Senate and I don’t think there’s much to be gained by getting involved in that particular situation.
JOURNALIST: You don’t think it’s too personal?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, that’s a matter for the editors. I just don’t think there’s any point in prolonging that story and I don’t think Senator Peris would want to prolong the story by talking about it.
JOURNALIST: Minister, how critical are the Higher Education Reforms to the Government? Would it be prepared to go as far as a double dissolution on this?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Julie, we’re a long way from that point. We are debating these reforms in the senate. I have a lot of hope that they will pass. As I’ve said before, I’m not an all or nothing person. I believe that we’ll get most of our reforms and that it’s better to have 80% of something then 100% of nothing. So we are a very long way from that particular turn of events.
JOURNALIST: So there is discussion that PUP might hold out until the Queensland State Election in March next year. I mean that really starts pushing your timelines doesn’t it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well timelines can always be shifted and I’m not going to be hidebound by timing schedules. What I want is an outcome for students and for universities. And that is a more important result than timelines and schedules. I don’t know how long the Palmer United Party might take to make a decision about this, but I’m prepared to work with them very constructively because I think these reforms will provide more opportunity for students and more quality education in our Higher Education institutions.
JOURNALIST: Ok. You’ve also been on the record this week as saying the majority of students support these reforms, how do you back that up?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I back that up because when students are told that the Higher Education Contribution Scheme stays, they are much more relaxed about these reforms. That’s been the evidence from the university open days and that’s been backed up by Universities Australia own research which was released this week. Which showed 56% of students supported these reforms once they’d been told.
JOURNALIST: Some of those surveys are a bit self-serving though aren’t they?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, you may well say so Julie. But they are a survey and a legitimate one and they are in the newspaper. So I can legitimately comment on them.
JOURNALIST: Universities say they need to know what is happening in 2016, could this be pushed out to the start of the 2017 year?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That’s not the plan of the government. The Government’s plan is to pass the legislation this year with the support of as many cross-benchers as possible, and not just the Palmer United Party’s senators, but of course other senators as well and I’m talking to them too.