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Palmer to block uni fee overhaul

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Clive Palmer has declared “bye bye” to the Federal Government’s university overhaul, saying his party will vote against the measures.

In the May budget, the government announced it would cut funding for courses by 20 per cent and allow universities to charge their own fees.

But Labor and the Greens are against the change, leaving Education Minister Christopher Pyne to negotiate with the Senate crossbench.

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The legislation is set for debate in the Senate on Wednesday, but Mr Palmer, whose Palmer United Party holds three balance of power seats, said his senators would be voting against it.

“Our three senators will, that’s for sure, and I understand [Victorian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator] Ricky Muir will as well, that’s his position,” he told Triple J’s Hack program.

“It’s bye bye for the education retrospective refit that they’re trying to do.

“This is 1950 Liberal Party policy, going back to the Commonwealth scholarships.”

On Monday, Mr Palmer had indicated he was open to negotiations, if more free scholarships were available.

But on Tuesday afternoon Mr Palmer advised students to write to Mr Pyne and “tell him he’s a mongrel”.

Free education for students

Mr Palmer is advocating a return to the days of free tertiary education.

He says people who graduate with massive uni debts are likely to get mundane jobs rather than take risks and potentially start the next giant technology company.

“We want to go back to freedom for our students so that they can develop and flower and bloom and be real value providers and leaders for Australia,” he said.

The PUP leader said he last spoke to Mr Pyne a couple of months ago.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne earlier told the ABC that a viable higher education system was at stake, and the government would press ahead with discussions.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday launched a new ALP campaign involving posters and online and television advertising to force the government to drop its uni changes.

Mr Shorten told a caucus meeting in Canberra the campaign was being run in the tradition of the late prime minister Gough Whitlam, who brought in free university tuition.

“The Liberals’ plan to deregulate university fees means we will wind up with a two-tiered Americanised system,” Mr Shorten said.

Wealthy students would be able to afford the $100,000 degrees, while others would have to rely on scholarships which Mr Shorten described as the “crumbs from the table of the Liberal government”.

“We will fight the Liberals’ debt sentence and we will prevail,” Mr Shorten said.


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