OPPOSITION leader Bill Shorten said the Coalition's education policies were divisive and mean-spirited during a speech at La Trobe Bendigo on Wednesday.
He said the Coalition's education policies involved trying to convince people who don't go to university that their taxes shouldn't pay for people who do.
"I guess you could extend that argument - why should healthy people pay for sick people?
"Why should people who don't need roads pay for people who do? Why should people on pensions ever pay any tax to pay for pensions?," he said.
"What a rotten, cynical, society-splitting, ignorant argument that is."
Labor's education spokesman Kim Carr, who was visiting with Mr Shorten, told attendees the Coalition may be presenting its education budget reform bills to parliament next Wednesday, and urged people to sign a petition opposing the them.
He said the Labor Party would try to block the measures in the senate.
"The fact is, there will be less and less people able to afford to go to university (under these measures) and that is a position the Labor Party will vigorously oppose," he said.
When asked about La Trobe University's recent announcement it was cutting jobs, Mr Shorten told the Bendigo Advertiser it was a shame.
"It's a real shame - higher education should be a growth industry in this country.
"No nation ever cuts education to grow.
"I get that the university has decisions to make and budgets to run but I think as a society when we're downsizing in education, then collectively we need to draw a breath and think, 'can't we do better than this?'"
Mr Shorten also commented on PUP senator Jacqui Lambie's comments that Australia should be worried about a Chinese invasion, describing them as "1950s comic book stuff".
"There are not people in lilos waiting to float down here and take over.
"We should be very wary of creating simplistic stereotypes that are so far from reality."
Mr Shorten's education comments referred to government budget measures to make cuts to higher education funding, to deregulate university fees and increase interest rates on higher education loans.