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Higher education ads slammed

Fairfax Media      |    9  December 2014

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The Abbott government has launched a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to address concerns about its proposed higher education changes, key aspects of which enjoy little support in the wider community. The youth-focussed campaign, based on the theme “Your future is Australia’s future”, is aimed at countering claims about skyrocketing degree costs under a deregulated fee system. Labor has run its own campaign – the difference being its ads were paid political advertising, not a taxpayer funded exercise.

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Prime time television advertisements launched on Sunday night (7 December), commercial radio advertisements have begun and full-page newspaper advertisements will follow over coming days. The campaign is expected to have a strong presence on social media sites such as Facebook (and paid advertising on search engines such as Google). Bus shelter advertisements have begun.

Following the Senate defeat of the reforms last week, education minister Christopher Pyne said independent senator John Madigan had requested a government-run education campaign to quell community concerns about the changes.

Madigan reacted angrily, saying he did not support a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign on higher education reform and that he had not called for one.

“Clearly the government has not sold its policies well,”  Madigan said on Facebook.

Its engagement with the public and the crossbench has been patchy. Unequivocally, I never called for an advertising campaign using taxpayers’ money and I would never support such a measure.

Other crossbench senators slammed the campaign.

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said he would write to the auditor-general to complain about the use of taxpayer funds to spruik a policy that was not yet enacted.

He also said the minister’s ­approach was unlikely to win over the crossbench, whose votes were critical to passing the revised laws.

This is taxpayer-funded party-political advertising when the law has not even been passed.  The government thinks this is going to change my opinion, but all it is doing is aggravating me.

Palmer United’s leader in the Senate Glenn Lazarus said no “sweeteners” would convince ­voters of the need for the university shake-up.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said Mr Pyne was “really stepping over the mark” in advertising the reforms.

It is a waste of taxpayer money — it doesn’t matter what ­colour lipstick you put on a pig, it is still a pig.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the taxpayer-funded campaign is a “disgrace”.

Tony Abbott is spending taxpayers’ money advertising his ­unfair plan for $100,000 uni degrees — which has been rejected by the parliament and the people.

Pyne has refused to concede defeat after the Senate loss, reintroducing an amended bill the next day and saying it is “inevitable” that Parliament would eventually support them.

A spokesman for Pyne said:

The information campaign will help to counter any myths and misconceptions about the current higher education system and raise awareness of HECS. It will provide prospective students with information to help guide their decisions relating to higher education … This is a information campaign focusing on the facts.

The government has declined to provide an estimate of the cost of the campaign.

See
The facts about higher education

 

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