The Australian | 9 October 2012
Craven told a National Press Club audience last week that when it came to universities, the states and territories took more than they gave.
The states typically take more out in payroll tax than they put into the entire system It’s incredibly short-sighted, because one of the great ways of differentiating between the states is if you can create that type of education-innovation culture that then drives industry.
Craven said there had been “occasional outbreaks of munificence”, such as Queensland’s Smart State scheme which funnelled significant sums into university coffers, which was wound down by the Bligh government and closed down by .the Newman government.
Victoria, also traditionally a relatively generous state to its universities, has similarly wound down funding this year. The innovation and technology budget was reduced by 20%, up to $15 million was shaved from medical research funding, and no higher education funding was allocated to universities from the education portfolio’s “Higher Education and Skills” group.
Craven, a constitutional law expert, said Australia’s founding fathers had considered universities a “state topic”.
The reason they are no longer state topics is because they are overwhelmingly funded, to the extent that they are funded publicly rather than privately, by the commonwealth. That’s been the choice of the states. They turned their backs on universities 30 years ago.
This is neither strictly nor even unstrictly true: the Whitlam government negotiated the transfer of funding responsibility for higher education to the Commonwealth. But the Whitlam government wasn’t particularly strong on detail and in this case the devil in the detail was that the settlement with the states was financial rather than constitutional.