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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9385

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (13:57): The Abbott Liberal government's higher education reform is going to hit people in regional Australia, like my electorate of Newcastle, hardest. Nearly one-third of all students at the University of Newcastle are from low socioeconomic backgrounds—well above the national average of 15 per cent. The University of Newcastle is proudly a university for everyone. They deliver excellence coupled with equity, not in spite of it—a lesson this government could well learn. We also know that the changes the government is introducing will be detrimental for women. NATSEM's modelling clearly showed that at any stage of life women will be worse off. Let me share the story of just one of my constituents who came to speak with the shadow higher education minister and I during a recent visit to the University of Newcastle. She is a mature age student. She has just completed the Open Foundation program and is wanting to attend university of the first time. She has raised a family and has worked for the last 12 years in retail but wanted to retrain and open opportunities for new employment prospects. But the proposed higher costs, higher debt and higher interest rates have dashed her hopes entirely. She told me straight: 'I've already got a mortgage, and I can't afford another one.' Labor knows that access to higher education should always be based on potential to learn, not capacity to pay. Education brings enormous public benefit, not just private privilege, as this government would have us believe. Labor will never support these laws that further entrench old boys' networks and privilege.