Students protest against fee deregulation bill

March 15, 2015
The banner at Sydney University. Photo: Rachel Evans.

Student activists dropped a huge banner from Sydney University’s Fisher Library which read "No cuts, no fees, no dereg. Fightback now!" to raise the alarm about the federal government’s looming attempt to deregulate university fees.

Six students also locked themselves to the Vice-Chancellor's office, to demonstrate their opposition, and called on all university Vice-Chancellors to oppose the bill.

University of Western Sydney student Mia Sanders said: "We took this action to tell the government we don’t want $100,000 degrees, and we don’t want to be in debt for decades after we graduate.

"[Prime minister] Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey got their education for free but are trying to get our generation to pay through our nose. If this bill gets through, these VCs have the power to charge huge fees, so we locked onto the VCs office to tell all of them to come out against this bill. Students don’t support this bill - 76% of university and TAFE students oppose these fee hikes. We won’t stop protesting until this bill is defeated."

A similar bill was defeated last year by one vote in the Senate, and Abbott and [education minister Christopher] Pyne are touted to put the Higher Education and Research Amendment Bill to the Senate again this week.

Macquarie University student Evan van Zijl told Green Left Weekly: "We took this action to alert students to this dangerous week. Pyne is committed to passing this bill, but we are determined to stop it. To all the independents who are wavering, you must know students are opposed to this, and we will not forget any treacherous act you may take.

"It's blackmail that Pyne is tying fee deregulation to $150 million in research funding, and we think that's deplorable. As students, teachers and researchers, we all need each other, and it's disgraceful that Pyne and the Abbott government are trying to pit us against each other," van Zijl said.

Sanders noted: "This is just one emergency action a small number of students took against this bill but we're fighting for the millions of students who will be affected by this bill. We will also be taking to the streets on March 25 for a national day of action against this bill. Join us there."

[The Education Action Network is has called nation-wide protests on March 25.]

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