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Australia’s Labor government to step up corporate restructuring of universities

In the run-up to the May 21 federal election in Australia, the main union covering university workers, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), has sought to sow the illusion that a new Green-backed Labor government will “defend the Higher Education “.

Tanya Plibersek [Photo: WSWS]

NTEU’s May Elections Special Edition Sentinel e-magazine even touted likely Labor education minister Tanya Plibersek at the top of its list of election candidates ranked as “higher education advocates”. Next on the list was Greens leader Adam Bandt, who was advocating for a coalition government with Labor and since the election has pledged to ensure the “stability” of the Labor government.

Plibersek and Bandt’s classification as ‘defenders’ was based on their signing, along with other Labour, Greens and ‘progressive independents’, to a set of five vague ‘principles’ which committed them to absolutely nothing, and certainly not to go back. the worsening corporate-led attack on staff and students that saw more than 40,000 jobs cut in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All this “defenders” labeling is a fraud. Plibersek spelled out the Labor Party’s agenda last August. She promised a well-heeled reunion to a Australian Financial Review Higher Education Conference that a Labor government offered the best way to accelerate the restructuring of higher education enterprises.

In his speech, Plibersek didn’t say a word about the devastating spate of job cuts, let alone a Labor government’s commitment to restoring one of them. Instead, she echoed the demands of big business, highlighted by a plan released by global consulting giant EY, which proclaimed the ‘death’ of higher education, demanding an end to universities such as ‘they currently exist, to be replaced by professional and research firms. services.

As the centerpiece of the Labor Party, Plibersek proposed “a deal on Australian universities”. It would be a “partnership between universities and staff, unions and business, students and parents, and ideally Labor and the Liberals – which spells out what we expect from our universities”.

This “deal” would bind university staff and students, via the NTEU and other unions, to a bipartisan front, with the liberal-national coalition and university leaderships, to meet the profit-generating demands of the capitalist class.

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