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Fee hikes bill set to pass as Centre Alliance pledges support

The minor centrist party has handed the LNP the crucial votes needed to pass their university funding reforms.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie.

The Federal Government’s proposed reforms to university funding, which will see the cost of humanities degrees more than double, are set to pass, after the minor South Australian party Centre Alliance came out in support of the bill this morning.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie confirmed that the party would vote for the reforms in the Senate, handing the Liberal National Party the crucial two votes needed in order to pass the Job-Ready Graduates package.

In a statement, Sharkie said: “It is ridiculous that year after year we churn out thousands of law graduates, many of whom will never work in law, and yet we import engineering graduates. Something has to change.”

However, Sharkie had originally hinted at opposition to the government’s bill, even retweeting a Sydney Morning Herald article on Twitter by Sydney University political economist Gareth Bryant, which argued that the bill would hurt both humanities and STEM students.

Sharkie’s support comes in exchange for a deal which would see more university places for South Australian students, as well as additional protections for students who have failed subjects in their first year of their degree.

Today’s news comes five days after crossbencher MP Jacqui Lambie confirmed that she would not be supporting the changes, arguing that poor kids “get a raw deal from this bill.”

With support from the centrist minor party, the bill may pass the Senate as early as this week.

The reforms amount to a significant change in university funding, as the government sets to hike fees for some courses in fields such as the humanities, in an effort to pay for fee cuts in the sciences, nursing and teaching.

The proposed changes will also see the overall student contribution rise from 42 to 52 per cent.

Students from the University of Sydney have travelled to Canberra today ahead of the budget tonight to protest the Liberal’s higher education reforms.

SRC President Liam Donohoe, who is currently in Canberra, told Honi: “This is a new low for a country and government that couldn’t get much lower. The Centre Alliance have betrayed students for some low grade pork barreling. But students should not see today as a funeral, but as a birth—the birth of the mass militant movement we need to achieve free, fully-funded education.”

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