The Family First Party has called for the Labor Party’s proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) to be used in setting up free online university courses.
In a statement issued last week, Family First senator, Steve Fielding, said such a system would provide free tertiary education and degrees which could be completed according to a person’s individual schedule.
It would also be required to justify the NBN’s $43 billion maximum cost, Fielding said.
“University courses shouldn’t have to be done during set times if we can store and download lectures at breakneck speeds,” he said. “Being able to do university in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience would create enormous opportunities for mothers staying at home to look after their kids.”
“A free online university system would provide unprecedented access to higher education opportunities, putting Australia at the forefront of learning,” he said.
“There is no reason why we can’t offer free degrees and use the new NBN to do it.
However, the senator - who has continued to hold out on key technology bills from the Government - said he remained reluctant to support the NBN without a business case.
Communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has so far been unwilling to commission such a business case, saying it was too late given the current state of the network’s rollout.
Fielding’s concerns appear on the NBN appear to center around claims made by an industry consultant, Malcolm McKenzie, that the project’s $43 billion cost could still blow out or double. Rival consultant and telco analyst, Paul Budde, has refuted those claims as unrealistic.