Click here to watch Sharon's speech
Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (13:38): There are many ways this government has failed the people of Australia, but one is the most indefensible and short-sighted—the concerted attack on access to higher education. If the changes proposed by this government are put in place, there will be a stark choice for Australians across this nation. That stark choice will be: 'Can I afford to go to university or not?' That is unacceptable—the government's policy is short-sighted. It fails individuals, it fails our economy and it fails our nation.
For young people facing a cost, potentially, of $100,000 to complete a university education, there will be a clear and hard choice to make: 'Can I get the higher education I need or will I have to sacrifice that because I cannot afford a mortgage, a family and a full life?' That is unacceptable—we have fought against this situation for decades. But that choice will now be the reality that people will face under this government's proposed changes to higher education. You should get to university based on your ability, based on your passion for your chosen field of study, based on your determination to contribute to the nation, not on—never on—what you can or cannot afford to pay. It is unacceptable. Labor will fight it and the community will join with us in that fight.