MEMBER for Hinkler Paul Neville has criticised the LNP's call to abolish Abstudy payments for indigenous students as a "short-sighted" move that could lead to the party being branded bigots.
In a close ballot yesterday as part of the party's state convention, the LNP backed the withdrawal of the indigenous study support scheme, after the Young LNP moved the motion on the grounds students receiving the payments should be rolled into the wider Austudy scheme to end "positive discrimination".
But Mr Neville told the convention the scheme was a vital one and that scrapping it would "brand us a mob of bigots", and urged the delegates to reject the move.
"If you want to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage, the weapon is education," Mr Neville told the NewsMail later.
"I think sometimes there has to be positive discrimination to correct past errors."
Mr Neville said the move was "short-sighted".
"They said (Abstudy) should be eliminated and that all secondary and tertiary assistance should be on a level playing field," he said.
"In the dying days of the Howard government, they had an intervention in the Northern Territory, which was positive discrimination because they felt Aboriginal children were not getting a fair go in many areas such as education.
"We wouldn't have intervened in the Northern Territory if they hadn't seen a grave need and the same argument applies here."
Mr Neville said he believed his opinion that the move was not properly thought out was backed up by an urgency motion calling on the Federal Government to examine better ways of providing assistance to indigenous students.
"I think there was a realisation you can't chop the head off Abstudy without a substitute," he said.
"(Abstudy is) about $8000-$8500, but if you're educating a child - unless you're living in a university city like Bundaberg or Rockhampton - to educate a child at a tertiary or upper school level, you're looking at a cost of $18,000-$21,000, which is a big gap.
"It's not as if Abstudy is covering all the costs - not by a long shot."
It is not yet known if the LNP will lobby the Federal Government, which oversees the study support schemes, to make the change.
"I couldn't in any good conscience support any motion that limited the opportunity to break the cycle," Mr Neville said.
"Education is empowerment."