LIBERAL MPs will force the parliament to consider scrapping a compulsory amenities fee for university students, despite the government’s attempt to shelve the issue in the face of a big reform agenda in higher education.
Queensland Liberal senator James McGrath has told the HES he will honour a promise made in his maiden speech this year and introduce a private senator’s bill in the next sitting of parliament to abolish the Student Services and Amenities Fee, introduced by the Gillard government in 2010.
Joining him in the push to scrap the payment, which in many cases is as high as $281, is Sydney Liberal MP Alex Hawke, who will introduce a motion to the House of Representatives.
Mr Hawke said despite the government’s attempt to defer the issue, there was “widespread support in parliament for making this fee voluntary and ensuring students choose the services they want”. Senator McGrath said the issue was “too important to wait”.
Soon after being elected last year Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the government would move to abolish the fee but was quickly slapped down by Tony Abbott, who said the government had “no plans for change in this area”.
This week Mr Pyne told the HES that if a private member’s bill were introduced, “we will consider it (and it) will go through our normal processes”.
National Union of Students president Deanna Taylor said removing SSAF would “cripple student unions” and force universities to divert funding to services now paid for by the fee.
Democratic Liberal Party senator David Leyonhjelm and Family First senator Bob Day have confirmed they will support a bill to make the fee voluntary.
“Given the revelations in The Australian that the compulsory fee that was meant to be for services is actually being spent on political activity and salaries for student politicians, this issue has to be taken seriously,” Mr Hawke said.