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Student uni fees facing likely Senate defeat -

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ELEANOR HALL: Back to Canberra now where the Senate appears set to block another Government bill,
this time over an increase in university fees.

Universities had pushed the case with the Government that they needed the extra money for sporting,
cultural and advocacy services on campus.

These services used to be funded by the compulsory unionism fee that was abolished in 2005.

But Family First Senator Steve Fielding says he can't support the measure because it would place
additional financial strain on poor students.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: The Liberals will vote against the Government's Student Services and Amenities Bill
because they argue it's compulsory unionism by another name.

But last night, the leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, said the Nats would vote
with the government but only if the fee was spent on sporting facilities and sporting groups. As he
argues sport makes a well-rounded university graduate.

BARNABY JOYCE: This is all about inspiring people to not just be completely centred on themselves
but to enter into a format that encourages them, of their own volition, to participate in a wider
community in such a way that you hope that their participation in that sport engenders them at a
later time in their life to give back to our nation.

SABRA LANE: Universities want the ability to charge up to $250 per student every year to help cover
the costs of maintaining sporting grounds as well as supplying legal services and welfare support
for students.

These costs used to be covered by the compulsory student union fee which was abolished in 2005. The
Rudd government says that decision left universities with a $170 million shortfall.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he couldn't support the National's amendment as it would
discriminate against those students who don't enjoy sport.

NICK XENOPHON: You're talking to someone, Chair, who at primary school trained all season to be in
the under 12 footy team and got to be orange boy for a match, so that's the nature of my sporting
prowess.

CHAIR: That's a very sad story Senator Xenophon.

NICK XENOPHON: And it does discriminate against those of us who are absolutely hopeless at sports.

SABRA LANE: And Family First's Steve Fielding said he couldn't vote for it either.

STEVE FIELDING: Senator Joyce's proposition is fundamentally flawed. He's trying to be half
pregnant. It's a joke to stand here and say sport's in but not arts'.

SABRA LANE: Senator Barnaby Joyce.

BARNABY JOYCE: I must say I was fascinated tonight to hear that I may be with child as expressed by
Senator Fielding. His decision that I was half pregnant:

I'm trying to work out which half is pregnant. Maybe I'm a little ample 'round the girth these days
but I'll have to do something about that.

SABRA LANE: And the leader of the Nationals made another point.

BARNABY JOYCE: Senator Fielding's clearly put his cards on the table. He doesn't support the Bill.
We can see what it's going to be, it'll be a tied vote.

A tied vote is a loss vote. A loss vote is obviously a trigger for a double dissolution.

SABRA LANE: Senator Steve Fielding.

STEVE FIELDING: Look, the compulsory student services fee is basically a tax on the poor. Students
are already currently are very hard to make ends meet at the moment.

And frankly they can do without another tax and that's what this is a tax on the poor and a tax on
students.

SABRA LANE: The universities have argued that they've been faced with extra costs of $170 million.
You're not sympathetic to that?

STEVE FIELDING: Look universities already get a lot of money from the Government and if these
services are so essential then the universities can actually support and provide them. But why
should students be slugged with another tax and pay for services that many of them are never going
to use?

SABRA LANE: Your decision to not support it means that the vote will probably be tied and this Bill
will go down becoming a double dissolution trigger.

STEVE FIELDING: Look, I've said from day one that I'll look at the policy of the issues and not the
politics.

SABRA LANE: Some would say that you're positioning yourself for a double dissolution vote because
that's probably your best chance of getting another term.

STEVE FIELDING: Look, on the student tax issue I've been consistent on this now for over three
years so I think it'd be very hard to claim that.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Family First Senator Steve Fielding ending that report from Sabra Lane in
Canberra.