The conservatives' staggering win in Australia's federal election last weekend is expected to lead to severe disruption on university campuses.
Higher education unions warned this week that they would begin an industrial campaign for a salary increase greater than that demanded of the former Labor government. With the end of the so-called accord between the union movement and Labor, which kept pay rises to a minimum, unions say they will now seek big increases.
The National Tertiary Education Union is committed to an escalating campaign of stoppages and work bans in support of its claim for salary increases of more than 15 per cent.
In an overwhelming rejection of prime minister Paul Keating's Labor government, Australians gave the coalition of Liberal and National parties a victory that could see them hold up to 100 of the 148 seats in the lower house.
At least eight Labor ministers lost their seats, including the minister for schools, Ross Free. Former education minister and deputy prime minister Kim Beazley was this week fighting to retain his Perth seat.
Whereas Labor had already committed Aus$16 billion (Pounds 8billion) to higher education over the next three years, the coalition promised that it would cut more than Aus$170 million annually from the university budget.
Universities will be "deregulated" and key bodies such as the National Board of Employment, Education and Training will be scrapped. The coalition has also promised to abolish Labor's quality assurance scheme, whereby universities have been assessed by an independent committee each year for the past three years.
But the conservatives have guaranteed that they will not introduce full tuition fees for undergraduates and will retain the higher education contribution scheme, under which students pay about 20 per cent of the cost of their courses through a tax surcharge after graduating.