Christopher Pyne believes that most women study nursing and teaching. This is not a joke.

Education minister Christopher Pyne


Last Wednesday night on the ABC’s 7.30 Report, Christopher Pyne was asked about the potential for his proposed de-regulation of university fees to hurt women and the poor.

The exchange was:

SARAH FERGUSON: Do you accept that there is a hit in the way that you’ve set up the loan repayments that hurts women and poorer people more than it does high income earners? Do you accept that’s the consequence?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, absolutely not. And I don’t accept it because what will happen at universities is that vice chancellors and their leadership teams will know that they should not charge and will not charge higher fees for courses which are typically going to be studied by people who’ll be nurses and teachers and therefore not earn high incomes over a period of time. Now, women are well-represented amongst the teaching and nursing students. They will not be able to earn the high incomes that say dentists or lawyers will earn, and vice chancellors in framing their fees, their fee structure, will take that into account. Therefore the debts of teachers and nurses will be lower than the debts, for example, of lawyers and dentists.

SARAH FERGUSON: But what happens to a female lawyer or a female dentist who takes, say, 10 years out of from the workplace to raise a family? She will pay a great deal more for her degree than a man who has no children.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Sarah, I feel like you’re sort of caught up on this subject and the reforms, the higher education reforms are a great deal more than simply the deregulation of fees. So, while you’re a bit caught up on one aspect of it, there are many very good aspects of this reform package which I think the Senate will find very attractive.


SARAH FERGUSON: I’ll just make the point it’s not me who’s caught up on it, it’s the vice chancellors of the university. But moving on.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so disheartening.

But more than that, his premise is totally factually incorrect.

61% of law graduates in 2010 were women (the figure is likely higher now) according to the Human Rights Commission. According to the Department of Health, 58% of dentistry graduates in 2012 were women.

I’ve written before about Pyne’s tendency to defend his stupid policy ideas with reference to evidence that is not true, so he has form on this issue.


It’s very sad that this man occupies a cabinet position despite being so ignorant that he can’t even be directionally correct when he cites information to support his position.

Women haven’t been less than half of law graduates for at least a decade, if not far longer. He’s not wrong by a bit, he’s wrong by a mile.

And if we correct this fact and then follow his logic, his conclusion is reversed. Under his reasoning, vice chancellors will set high fees for law and dentistry, based on their high salaries, only for women to be ruthlessly punished by higher interest rates if and when they take time out of the workplace to have children.

They will then repay far more than men, meaning that even if they manage to close the gender pay gap, a yawning gender wealth gap will remain.

How do you feel about Christopher Pyne’s comments?

Author, Steve Hind has been an on and off blogger at The HindSite Blog for a few years. He is currently an MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School and formerly worked in strategy at Qwilr and as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. He is a Law and Economics graduate of the University of Sydney and a former World Championship winning debater and debating coach.

00:00 / ???