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Wednesday, 4th March 2015

THE FEE DEREGULATION THAT ISN'T

Fairfax's Matthew Knott reports that the government is considering an entirely new compromise proposal to get its university fee deregulation package through the Senate. The proposal by Bruce Chapman and David Phillips, two of the architects of the original HECS scheme in 1989, would allow universities to set their own fees, but would penalise those universities that raise their fees above current levels with a levy. Chapman himself has reportedly described his proposed levy as similar to the Rudd government's mining super profits tax, which seems a curious form of salesmanship: given the Coalition's naked hostility to the mining tax from opposition, one might think that link would be enough to kill this proposal.

It's also difficult to see how the Chapman compromise would not be a bridge too far for the government. The past year has seen Christopher Pyne progressively slice off parts of the original package presented in the budget to leave the core policy: fee deregulation. But by effectively setting a price ceiling and strongly incentivising universities to stay at or below it, the Chapman proposal can't sensibly be described as "deregulation" at all, at least in the sense the government has intended the word for twelve months. Chapman's submission to the Senate inquiry says the universities "still have complete price discretion", but in practice that discretion would work in a downward direction only.

The universities, especially the Group of 8 and through the Universities Australia peak body, have spent the last year demanding fee deregulation as a way of raising fees, having concluded that they can't rely on increased government funding in a context in which Australia spends very little on higher education (as a proportion of GDP) compared with other OECD countries. The Chapman proposal would not address the universities' concerns, which begs the question of why the government would proceed at all. And forgotten almost entirely is the Coalition's pre-election promise (on page 41 of its Real Solutions policy document): "we will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding".

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Co-payment dead

James Massola and Dan Harrison report in Fairfax: "In an embarrassing leak from Monday night's cabinet meeting, Fairfax Media has been told cabinet had a lengthy discussion about the co-payment. A cabinet minister who was part of the discussion told Fairfax there was no doubt in his mind Tony Abbott's comments were, in part, a criticism of former health minister Peter Dutton."

Lenore Taylor reports at Guardian Australia: "The Abbott government is now working on a fifth version of its Medicare policy after the prime minister declared its latest attempt to introduce a co-payment ‘dead buried and cremated’ but the health minister said she had not finalised an alternative to achieve the same policy aims."

And ABC News posted a useful timeline charting key events in "the rise and fall of the GP co-payment".

More troops to Iraq

Emma Griffiths reports at ABC News: "Tony Abbott has rejected suggestions that sending another 300 troops to Iraq amounts to ‘mission creep’ and has not ruled out future increases in Australia's contribution to the fight against Islamic State."

Lenore Taylor reports at Guardian Australia: "Australia’s commitment of 300 more troops to help train Iraqi fighters is pointless without more spending on humanitarian aid to stop the radicalisation of some of the 16 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance, according to World Vision's CEO Tim Costello."

Clarke Jones comments in Fairfax: "The government shows little understanding of the underlying causes of terrorism."

Tom Switzer comments at Guardian Australia: "It pains me to say it, but Abbott has learned nothing about Iraq. He's taken the Islamic State's bait."

Not so welcome

Simon Benson reports in the Daily Telegraph: "Joe Hockey yesterday gave the company owned by 55-year-old Hong Kong property developer Hui Ka Yan, 90 days to sell the harbourside mansion it had purchased last year for $39 million or face having it repossessed by the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions."

Peter Mares writes at Inside Story: "The Abbott government’s tough stance on border protection doesn’t only apply to asylum seekers arriving by boat. It might come as a surprise that the mother of two children, both of whom are Australian citizens by birth, doesn’t also have an automatic right to live in Australia."

Michael Safi reports at Guardian Australia: "A legal bid by a former One Nation candidate to block federal funding for an Islamic primary school in Sydney’s west has been thrown out by the New South Wales Supreme Court."

Meet John Fraser, Treasury Secretary

Chris Berg writes at the Drum: "The new Treasury Secretary made his political debut last week, and judging by his comments the upcoming budget could look very different to what Joe Hockey had been preparing us for late last year."

Russell Marks' analysis at The Monthly: "Are we really stealing from our kids to fund a debt crisis?"

Politics

Ebony Bowden reports at The New Daily: "Formerly disgruntled Liberal MPs have publicly backed Prime Minister Tony Abbott just four weeks after a failed motion to have him removed as leader, telling the ABC Mr Abbott is ‘a new man’."

Lenore Taylor reports at Guardian Australia: "A new poll has failed to confirm the Coalition’s rebound in another survey, but has found a near majority of voters approve of the prime minister’s handling of the ‘threat of terrorism’."

Sally Young comments in Fairfax: "For Tony Abbott, the leadership polls will keep coming and they will be as damaging to him as Menzies feared they could be, and as damaging as they were to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard."

Lewis & Woods' analysis at The Drum: "The government's small recovery in the polls could come down to its handling of national security, but if Tony Abbott personally wants voter approval he'll need to appeal to more than just the Coalition base."

Shalailah Medhora reports at Guardian Australia: "Clive Palmer told Guardian Australia that the party would vote against all major legislation that does not have bipartisan support."

Mark Skulley reports at The New Daily: "The ACTU will follow this week’s mass protest rallies around Australia with an ‘online war’ as the next phase of its campaign to help defeat the Abbott government at the 2016 federal election."