ACT News

ANU students 'pash' Christopher Pyne at kissing booths to protest university fee deregulation

It may not seem like the most appealing proposal, but new university students across Australia are being encouraged to "pash" Christopher Pyne in a bid to "kiss fee deregulation goodbye".

But far from sparking a potential security scare for the Education Minister, the students will be instead locking lips with a six-foot tall cardboard effigy of Mr Pyne at university orientation days at 25 campuses across Australia.

The Australian National University had the dubious honour of being the first campus to welcome GetUp's Pash Pyne kissing booth on Wednesday.

The initiative may be a "cheeky tactic" to create some laughs and countless selfies with Mr Pyne, but GetUp health and education campaigner Natalie O'Brien said there was a serious issue at heart.

"We are watching the senate closely at the moment, we've seen in the last month cross-benchers are more and more emphatic in their rejection of the [reform] bill," she said.

"We believe Mr Pyne's controversial higher education package is as good as dead in the Senate that's why we want students to kiss fee deregulation goodbye."

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Ms O'Brien said the kissing booth was designed to start a conversation with students about what the government was trying to do to the education system and the type of tertiary education system Australia wants.

She admitted some first year students knew less about the reforms than others, but said there was a "basic understanding in the wider population" with people rejecting a US-style education system.

"We need to keep education affordable, education should be something that's open to people at all tiers of society," she said.

"We don't want deregulated fees, we don't want US-style student debt and we don't want $100,000 degrees.

"Let's kiss this stuff goodbye and get on with the conversation about how to create a smarter Australia and a better higher education system."

Leading thinkers in higher education and parliamentarians will do just that at an invitation-only roundtable at the University of Canberra on Friday, discussing viable alternatives to make the higher education system sustainable.

Ms O'Brien said the education sector was up in arms about the lack of consultation from the government and urged Mr Pyne to go back to square one on his higher education package to create skills for the 21st century.

"We've seen real energy in the student movement in the last 12 months and we're excited we've got a whole bunch of new first-year students who are going to be engaged in the campaign and excited about the opportunity to go to university," she said.

"I imagine it would be very easy for them to imagine a future when they didn't have those same opportunities."

Ms O'Brien said Getup was working closely with the National Tertiary Education Union and the National Union of Students ahead of a national day of action in March and many GetUp members were contacting their local Coalition backbench members who were opposed to the reforms.

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