Culture

So Christopher Pyne Got His Start In Politics Campaigning Against The Introduction Of Student Fees

Yes, THAT Christopher Pyne.

As we’ve gone over extensively before, Education Minister Christopher Pyne is trying very hard to deregulate university course fees, a move that will likely make courses tens of thousands of dollars more expensive for the students who want to study them. Pyne introduced a bill to that effect into Parliament a couple of weeks ago, and while it’s being opposed by Labor, the Greens and numerous crossbench Senators, he’s sticking to his guns; when he introduced the bill, Pyne claimed that deregulating uni fees would “enable Australia to achieve the best higher education system in the world”.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of uni fee deregulation, it’s an interesting comment from a guy who started his lifelong political career by running on a platform of opposing any university fees at all. In an April 1985 edition of University of Adelaide student newspaper On Dit, which you can view online here, Pyne outlined his reasons for running for a position on the Students’ Association of the University of Adelaide’s (SAUA) Education Standing Committee, first and foremost of which was keeping higher education free of any fees whatsoever, government and private both.

“I feel it my duty to stand for election and do everything possible to forestall the introduction of fees and indeed to end any movement by the Federal Government to introduce fees”, Pyne, who was in his first year of a law degree at the time, wrote in the paper. He added that he felt the need to run due to his interest in student politics and “the need to promote discussion and activity in education matters, particularly concerning [the] introduction of fees to attend university education”.

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Pyne graduated from UA with a law degree in 1988, one year before the Hawke Labor government abolished free higher education and introduced HECS fees in 1989. As Crikey worked out, if Pyne had completed his degree under the current system he’d be rocking a student debt of over $40,300 instead of getting it for free. If fee deregulation sees the cost of some degrees double, as modelling by Universities Australia suggests (and also pointed out by Crikey), Pyne’s debt would sit at over $80,000.

Pyne did very well out of his free education and the student politics it enabled him to engage in so enthusiastically; he served as the President of the Adelaide University Liberal Club from 1987 to 1988, and was elected to federal Parliament just five years later at the tender age of 25. He’s been there ever since. It’d be interesting to see, if he had had an $80,000 student debt to juggle, if he would’ve made it quite so far.