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Breaking: Senate votes down university fees legislation. Again.

Christopher “the fixer” Pyne has failed to get his changes through the Senate. Again.

The Senate has voted to reject the Federal Government’s legislation to deregulate universities, for a second time.

The changes — which the Coalition has been trying to ram through for months — would allowed universities to set their own fees, a move which Labor and the Greens have warned could lead to $100,000 degrees and create a university sector based on wealth rather than merit.

The Higher Education and Research Reform Bill was defeated 34 votes to 30, with several crossbench senators joining Labor and the Greens to vote against it.

Déjà vu, anyone? Students saved from $100,000 degrees as Parliament votes down education reform.

ABC News reports that independent Senators Nick Xenophon, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, and Palmer United Party senator Dio Wang opposed the bill, while Family First Senator Bob Day and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm supported it.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

Independent Senator John Madigan also voted in favour of the bill, but said he had serious concerns about its current form.

“I also fear the consequences of doing nothing,” he told the Senate.

Senator Xenophon agreed that the system should be changed, but made it clear he did not believe deregulation was the correct path.

“I cannot accept what the Federal Government is doing. I cannot support it,” he said. But he also acknowledged Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s willingness to compromise. “[Education] Minister Pyne is incredibly flexible,” he said. “More flexible than a yoga instructor, I think sometimes.”

Yesterday, Minister Pyne sidelined a $1.9 billion funding cut to course fees and also withdrew his threat to take $150 million from scientific research if the package was not passed.

In case you missed it, it went a little something like this…

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We’re not sure where the savings will come from exactly but in a perplexing, and slightly very unnerving interview on Sky News last night, Pyne enigmatically told David Speers he’d “cleared it away and dealt with it.”

The changes, he said, will be revealed in the budget papers, but he wants them to be “a surprise.”

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Despite today’s defeat, Pyne remains adamant that he will push the bill a third time, insisting the reforms are “crucial for Australia’s future”. 

He is, after all, “a fixer”. Truly, terrifying stuff.

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