After 14 hours of debate, the government’s higher education reform legislation has passed the lower house.
The Abbott government’s contentious higher education reforms have cleared parliament’s lower house.
But it will be several weeks before the government can take them to the Senate.
Labor bitterly railed against the changes that will deregulate student fees, raise interest rates on student debt and cut Commonwealth funding.
It vowed to continue its battle against the reforms outside parliament.
“We don’t have to fight very hard because everyone knows how bad these changes are,” frontbencher Amanda Rishworth said.
She accused the government of guillotining debate because it was scared of scrutiny about the bill’s impact.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie called on senators to “see good sense” and block the reforms that would hurt the disadvantaged, women and country residents.
“This is another sign of a government that is cruel,” he said.
But coalition MPs said the reforms – which Education Minister Christopher Pyne has hailed as the “greatest of our time” – would result in a system that was “truly fair and universal” and ensure universities were strong and competitive.
However, some rural MPs are working behind the scenes to convince Mr Pyne regional unis need extra support.
As Labor was losing its fight in the lower house, it managed to win Senate support to push back a report on the reforms – delaying the government’s moves to introduce the bill to the upper house until October 28.
That gives Mr Pyne, who’s conceded the package won’t pass the Senate in its original form, plenty of negotiation time with crossbenchers.
He appears to have the support of Family First senator Bob Day and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.
Other senators are waiting to see the legislative detail before coming to a firm position while the the Palmer United Party is opposed at this stage.
Labor has urged the government to separate a number of non-controversial measures from the legislation, such as extending loans help to New Zealanders.
The Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 now goes to the Senate.