The Liberal Government’s proposed Higher Education Reform may not be fee deregulation, but it still has the effect of driving up fees for students, Independent Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie has said.

“Students should not have to bear the brunt of Budget Repair when gas companies are getting away with paying no tax and no royalties. We are a rich enough country that we can afford to give our young people their first degree free,” Senator Lambie said.

“The $2.8 billion in savings over the next four years that Senator Birmingham is spruiking will primarily be taken from students.

“The close to $4000 hike in student fees will deter potential students from chasing their career goals, with disadvantaged groups being the biggest loser from these reforms,” Senator Lambie said.

“Senator Birmingham’s $140 million a year investment in rural-regional students will not make up for the $2.8 billion burden the Liberal Government plans to put on the shoulders of students.

“Dropping the repayment threshold to $42,000 from $52,000 is more proof of how out-of-touch the Liberal Government is. Anyone who has spent any time on a salary that low knows there is no spare cash floating around to start repaying their HECS debt,” Senator Lambie said.

“This is just another of the Liberal Government’s ‘make the rich richer, and the poor, poorer’ scheme.

“If the Prime Minister was serious about his ‘Innovation Agenda’, he would include free university education, because a good education has high economic returns for Australia in the years to come.

“We know it works – it’s been done before,” Senator Lambie said.