Today I crossed the floor to vote against the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018, an action I have always said I would undertake.
Some would say that I have crossed the floor against my Party, but I see it as staying true to my word and I would like to thank my National Party colleagues for understanding that this is my stance. From day one they have known my views on this Bill and they have supported my independence on this topic, which is close to my heart.
This is what makes The Nationals a great Party: We respect the vast array of attitudes and opinions held by an equally diverse and switched-on regional Australia. As such, members can vote with their conscience; we are not held hostage by faceless power-brokers who demand our loyalty, unlike those in the Labor Party.
My opposition to this Bill was outlined in a statement released in March. It is my concern that any reduction to the HECS-HELP repayment threshold would, in effect, be a disincentive to students, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Students are one of Australia’s most precious resources and we should invest in them. I recognise the Government’s intent is to make a sustainable system, but I would not change my position on this Bill, which I opposed for all Tasmanians – for all Australians – with my head and my heart. I strongly support maximising the opportunity for students, especially those from my home state of Tasmania.
There are those in the Labor Party who thought they may have got some political mileage out me changing my tune, but I am proud of being in a Party that leads the way in supporting rural and regional students to get an education.
The Nationals have systematically removed barriers for rural and regional students. Education is absolutely critical to ensuring our rural and regional children grow up with every opportunity they could hope for, and as a National I will continue to advocate for those opportunities.
But as a National, I also believe it is my responsibility to stand up and give voice to those rural and regional communities – particularly those in Tasmania – when legislation could serve to take away those opportunities as well.