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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5175


Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (1:17 PM) —The compulsory student services fee is a tax on the poor—nothing more, nothing less. It is a tax on university students. It is a tax on those who can least afford it. Students are doing it very, very tough. If the Rudd government realised how tough they are doing it, they would not be slapping a tax on students, a compulsory fee on university students. We have to be clear that it is nothing more than a tax on them.

I will make a statement that I have made a couple of times before. The National Party’s position is absolutely ridiculous. It is a halfway house. They are half pregnant, saying, ‘Look, gee, we don’t like a $250 compulsory fee, but we’ll have a little less for sports.’ I play sport, I love sport and most Australians love sport, but how can you argue the principle that it is okay to slug the students with a compulsory fee for sports only? What about those people who are not interested in sports? It undermines the whole argument. It is a ridiculous position. It is half pregnant—a halfway house. It is crazy.

No wonder the chamber is going to reject this compulsory student fee, because it is nothing but a tax on the poor. It would be used for services that people may not even use—some will never use them. Students are struggling to make ends meet and we should not be putting an extra financial burden on them at all. It is strange that we are again talking about a tax on students. Frankly, that is what it is. I know the two major parties will argue back and forth on history and political grounds. Putting that aside is not the issue. Should students be compulsorily required to pay a fee that is nothing more than a tax? I say no and I think Australia generally would say no. It should not be supported and I think today we will find it will not be supported.