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Democrats back university students and staff against fee deregulation.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Australian Democrats Higher Education Spokesperson 10 April 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/218

Democrats back university students and staff against fee deregulation

The Australian Democrats today backed protests by students and staff against the Government’s proposals to further burden university students with higher fees and debt.

Democrats’ Higher Education spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said the Democrats are categorically opposed to deregulating fees and imposing higher levels of debt on students.

The Prime Minister has said the Government is:

determined to provide an environment in which universities can deliver superb teaching, engage in scholarship and undertake world class research. As reforms are developed, we will be guided by four key principles - diversity, quality, equity and sustainability. We need a higher education system … that provides all Australians with the opportunity of a higher education experience.1

“However, the preliminary leaked details of the ‘Crossroads’ package make it clear the Government has walked away from that appropriate intention,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“Simply relying on increased student fees to fix the chronic under-resourcing of universities is neither equitable nor sustainable.

“Failure to deliver in the Budget will prove the Government has sacrificed its own domestic agenda for a role in United States’ foreign policy.

“Higher education will be one of the few domestic items in the Budget yet, even it will be at the mercy of the Government’s spending on its international agenda.

“The Government will be grossly abrogating its own responsibilities to ensure an equitable, high quality education system for all Australians if its only policy approach is to demand students take on higher levels of debt to fund their education.

“Fees and charges are a psychological and financial disincentive for aspiring students, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Democrats will not support any measures which further limit the ability of students to access and complete higher education,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

For media inquiries please contact Serena Rogers on 0419 833 571.

1 Transcript of address to CEDA, 20 November 2002,