In her speech on November 5, Blanchett credited former Prime Minister Whitlam for his landmark decision to abolish fees, in order to make unis more accessible. “I am the beneficiary of free tertiary education,” she said.
“When I went to university, I could explore different courses and engage with the student union in extra-curricular activity,” she continued. “It was through that that I discovered acting.”
Howard has belatedly hit back at the actress, calling her speech “outrageous”, on the basis that in his day, free uni education was also available in Australia … assuming you were able to get a Commonwealth scholarship.
“Cate Blanchett is a talented actor, I admire her talent, but to suggest that Whitlam introduced free university education is wrong,” he said, according to News Limited.
“I went to Sydney University between 1957 and 1961, I didn’t get a good enough leaving pass to win a Commonwealth scholarship, but I did well enough at the end of my first-year law exams to win a scholarship from somebody who lost theirs for not doing well enough.”
“The last three years of my university education were completely free and that was 11 years before Whitlam came to power,” he continued, saying that scholarships were accessible to up to 70 percent of students prior to Whitlam’s reforms.
He continued on to say that the idea of free uni education arriving with Whitlam is “complete nonsense and it ought to be called out more frequently.”
Having access to scholarships isn’t technically the same thing as a free uni education for all Australians, but whatevs, Howard had one, so his story totally checks out.
“In 1989, when it became obvious that we could no longer afford free universities, the Hawke government introduced the HECS system, and we supported that,” Howard continued.
Australian students are currently able to obtain loans under the HELP program – as in “HELP, I’m going to be in fucking debt forever.”
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