Australian Greens spokesperson for higher education Senator Lee Rhiannon has said the Coalition Government has used the budget to continue its attack on public education and pursue its vision for a more unequal, elitist education system.
"HECS as we know is to be abolished and replaced with an unfair and regressive user-pays model," said Senator Rhiannon.
"Graduates on lower incomes will now be saddled with a higher debt than those on higher incomes, as a result of the charging of real interest rates of up to 6% on HECS debt.
"It is just incredulous that this government is planning on ripping an extra $3.2 billion from the pockets of students in the form of higher interest rates on HECS and an earlier repayment threshold.
"The government will directly increase student fees by slashing their Commonwealth contributions to student places by $1 billion.
While welcoming Premier Mike Baird's decision to publish ministerial diaries, the Greens are concerned that exemptions for allegedly commercially sensitive material can be used as an excuse for business as usual.
('Mike Baird to make ministerial diaries public after lobbying allegations' Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May, page 2, http://j.mp/1ggasyN)
Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "At the very least, decisions to remove details of meetings from published ministerial diaries should be subjected to independent review.
"The diaries of ministerial staffers should also be released.
"There are good reasons to protect the anonymity of whistle blowers and some commercial interactions.
"However, without a mechanism to ensure that the provisions are not being misused, the culture of lobbying will continue behind closed doors.
"Any minister wanting to hide a meeting will only have to claim it relates to a commercial in confidence matter.
"There is a long and dishonourable tradition in NSW politics of declaring matters commercial-in-confidence or cabinet papers when the real objective is to hide a misdeed from the public.
Premier Mike Baird's important first steps towards reducing the influence of lobbyist have been undermined by the loopholes he left open, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye
Dr Kaye said: "There is much in this package that could benefit NSW if the Premier were prepared to stop ministers hiding behind commercial-in-confidence excuses to protect lobbying from public scrutiny.
"The Ministerial Code of Conduct has long been seen as a toothless tiger. Making breaches a matter for ICAC will make all ministers focus on their duty to the people of the state and help transform the toxic culture of NSW politics.
"Independent regulation of lobbyists will expose the worst behaviours and pressure the industry into clean up its act.
"It's a good start, but Mike Baird's lobbying reforms are vulnerable to the loopholes the Premier has left open.
"Behind every Minister is a team of staff, bureaucrats and parliamentary secretaries whose opinions and judgement play a key role in decision making in this state.
New Attorney General Brad Hazzard and new Police Minister Stuart Ayres today announced a plan to further increase police powers, despite the new Police Minister and Attorney General having been in the job less than a month.
The Government's proposed amendments to LEPRA are likely to further strip protections under s201 of that Act which only requires that police must identify themselves and their station when exercising their powers under the act.
Greens MP and Police spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"Police have long campaigned against the simple requirements under LEPRA to tell people their name, station and explain why they are arresting someone.
"The Police Minister has been in the job only a week, he hardly knows his way around the office let alone the complexities of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act. This has all the hallmarks of the Police Association driving government policy.
"The idea that this basic safeguard is an unnecessary complexity is extremely worrying coming from the new Police Minister.