The Centre Alliance has come under fire from Labor, the Greens and independent crossbenchers including Senator Jacqui Lambie after the party announced it would support the government's higher education changes.
The government said the changes, which were announced earlier this year, were aimed at improving job outcomes for graduates and encouraging students to study degrees in areas where Australia has a skills shortages.
The changes accommodate for decreases in fees for units involving teaching, nursing, agriculture, maths, English and languages, environmental science, health, architecture, IT and engineering.
On the other hand students pursuing humanities degrees could face a 113 per cent increase while law and commerce degrees could cost up to 28 per cent more.
A two year freeze on funding increases has also been lifted which will see university funding per student increase annually according to the consumer price index.
On Tuesday, Centre Alliance's education spokesperson Senator Rebekha Sharpie announced the party would support the changes in exchange for extra funding for universities in South Australia.
Senator Sharkie said the bill was not perfect but it did secure funding certainty for universities which were facing financial hardship.
"Another positive outcome of these reforms will hopefully be a strengthened focus on domestic students, particularly domestic students from the regions who have under-represented in our universities," she said.
Securing the votes of Centre Alliance became crucial for the government after independent senators Lambie and Rex Patrick announced they would not support the bill.
It's a bill that creates no new uni places, makes them more expensive, gives 10% off coupons to rich kids and tells poor kids to go dream elsewhere. Every uni in SA loses, every student in SA loses. Not perfect? My word. #auspolpic.twitter.com/D6M2w7hvJN— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) October 5, 2020
Both senators took to Twitter to express their frustration after Centre Alliance announced their support.
Labor Lyons MHR Brian Mitchell said it was deeply disappointing that the South Australian members of Centre Alliance had decided to support the bill.
No matter how hard you try @MakeMayoMatter you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. 3500 SA school leavers could be paying $9K-$23K more for their chosen uni course if this bill passes #auspol#FundUniFairly#highered#MakeMayoSmarter#MakeSASmarterhttps://t.co/plM9bMSHAp— Rex Patrick (@Senator_Patrick) October 5, 2020
He said the decision amounted to a South Australian party looking after their own political interests and not the interests of students elsewhere, including Tasmania.
"It is a bad bill and I am deeply disappointed that Centre Alliance is backing it ... at its core this bill does not progress the interests of higher education," Mr Mitchell said.