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Speech: Liberals gag debate on uni bill

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 8 Oct 2020

I rise on behalf of the Greens to say that we will be vehemently opposing this disgraceful government's motion to guillotine a bill that hikes fees for universities and cuts funding for universities. We will not even have time to go to the committee stage and debate the ream of amendments that this government sent through just an hour ago. Shame on Centre Alliance and shame on One Nation for some petty deals that they've done, which Minister Birmingham defined as 'minor technical amendments to this legislation'. You've been taken for a massive ride, you know? You've fallen hook, line and sinker for government spin. You've been totally duped. There's nothing else to say about this. Some of the things that you want are not even in the legislation, so you've said, 'Fingers crossed, and hope for the best.'

An honourable senator interjecting—

Senator FARUQI: I do know what I'm talking about. There might be some secret deal that this government is not letting us in on, but it doesn't even have the decency to let us talk about something which is going to affect all future generations of Australians, which is going to take away the right of education from generations of Australians.

This is how bad you are. If you think this bill is so great, then let's talk about it. Let's talk about the amendments that you're putting up. Let's talk about our amendments that we want to put up to this bill. Yes, it's a terrible bill. There are some absolutely horrific aspects of the bill that we want to move amendments to. Why won't you let us talk about this? Because you know that this is a bad bill. You know that this bill is going to disadvantage Indigenous people. It's going to disadvantage women. It's going to disadvantage first in family. It's going to disadvantage regional Australians. It's going to disadvantage people living in the cities. It's going to disadvantage every single person in Australia.

The amendments that you're moving to this bill are in the same vein as the budget that you have delivered—putting more money into the pockets of rich people. One of the amendments that I quickly had a look at—I haven't even had a chance to look at the others—gives a discount to people who pay fees upfront. Who are those people who are going to pay fees upfront? I think Senator Lambie said it exactly like it is: it is the rich who can afford to pay $14,000 a year. You're giving a tax break to them yet again. That's what it is.

An honourable senator interjecting—

Senator FARUQI: Absolutely right; you don't care. You don't care about anyone else in this country but the super-wealthy and the rich. That's all you care about. You've told us that again and again this week during your budget speeches. You stand up here and say, 'People shouldn't go to university' or, 'The Greens say that everyone should go to university.' That's not true. We want education available to all, so that people can have a choice to do what they want to.

An honourable senator: Freedom!

Senator FARUQI: Absolutely! That's what democracy is about. You are sitting here crushing the democratic rights, the democratic freedoms, of people in this country. But you're also crushing democracy overall when you try and guillotine us from speaking on things, from debating things, that will actually put up a very bleak future for Australians. That's what this bill is going to do. You don't even understand that. It's cutting research funding. You know that the money that you announced in the budget goes nowhere near the billions of dollars of research funding that this bill actually cuts out. These are the people who have already lost their jobs in droves. They're not coming back. Our researchers are not coming back, and we need those people to come out of this recession, to come out of this pandemic—

Senator Rennick interjecting—

Senator Waters interjecting—

Senator FARUQI: Thanks, Larissa. I think, Mr President, you should probably call order. Senator Rennick has been ranting at me for the last 10 minutes.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'm dealing with the procedural matters. Can I honestly say that down that end of the chamber there are very few people with a halo, but everyone should remain quiet. Now a senator has asked for the respect of the chamber. I'm going to demand it.

An honourable senator: Point of order.

The PRESIDENT: Can I finish ruling on this? Senators need to remain quiet while I am issuing a ruling.

Senator Rennick interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Rennick! I was actually just asking senators to remain quiet while I'm issuing a ruling! Senator Hanson-Young?

Senator Hanson-Young: Thank you, Mr President. I would urge you to ask Senator Rennick to withdraw his foul language directed at Senator Faruqi.

The PRESIDENT: I couldn't hear anything. I'm going to do what is normally done, which is that, where something is not in the Hansard, I invite a senator, if something was said that was unparliamentary, to withdraw. I had no chance of hearing anything then. If anything unparliamentary was said, I encourage it to be withdrawn.

Honourable senators interjecting—


Senator Rennick interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. Senator Rennick has withdrawn. Senator Faruqi to continue, and I remind senators of the need to remain silent in the chamber.

Senator FARUQI: Thank you, Mr President. Thousands upon thousands of students and uni staff have contacted all of us sitting on this side, and all of you sitting on that side, telling us how horrible, how bad and how horrific the consequences of this bill are going to be. Yet obviously, on that side, it's fallen on deaf ears. Well, it hasn't fallen on deaf ears on this side. So we still want to continue on and talk about these things and try and change some of the things that are in this bill. We want to debate your amendments. We want to see what you are amending. We want to have a chance to look at what they are and give you the chance to defend them. But you can't defend them—that's what the issue is here. You cannot defend a single thing in this terrible bill. It is indefensible what's going on in this bill. Shame on all of you! We will absolutely be opposing your guillotine motion. Shame!


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