The Australian Greens say plans to increase student fees while ripping $2.4 billion away from universities would hurt an already struggling sector in Tasmania, and clearly demonstrates how the Abbott government has got its priorities wrong.
Coalition MP's have indicated support for the Kemp-Norton review, which earlier this month recommended giving taxpayer funds to private institutions, abolishing targets for supporting disadvantaged students, and covering a drop in government contributions with an increase in student fees.
"UTAS is already struggling under the Abbott government's funding cuts. Eroding it even further to fund a private competitor would be disastrous for the state," said Greens Leader and Tasmanian Senator Christine Milne.
"UTAS must be supported. It's a major employer and driver of the changes we need to diversify our economy, especially in Burnie and Launceston.
"Deregulating fees would create a two-tiered higher education system, with students who can afford to pay more enrolling at universities facing high demand, pricing out the less well-off.
"Abolishing targets for supporting disadvantaged students would be felt keenly in Tasmania, with so many young people growing up in low-income households.
"The Greens believe it's those with active minds rather than fat wallets who should be able to attend university in Tasmania, and we will not support measures that would increase fees.
"Treasury has previously costed The Greens' policy of free education at $2.5 billion a year. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the $12 billion Tony Abbott wants to spend buying new fighter jets and the $50 billion a year in superannuation tax concessions that are massively skewed to the wealthy."