Thursday, 2 October 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Why is the Prime Minister so determined to force young Australians to pay $100,000 for a degree? Why is he so determined to give a tax break to those with over $2 million in retirement savings?
Let me respond with the truth to those untruths from the member who just asked that question. The truth is that no Australian university student need pay a dollar upfront. The truth is that all of their fees will be covered by the FEE-HELP scheme, which has been in place in one form or another, for many years, and fully 50 per cent of their university education will be covered by the taxpayer.
Given that university graduates earn on average 75 per cent more over their lifetimes than nongraduates, given that 60 per cent of the population do not go on to get university degrees, I think it is fair and reasonable that those who are having the benefit of a university education should pay a modestly greater percentage. It is fair and reasonable to those who do not get the benefit that those who do get the benefit should pay a small increase in the burden of their benefit.
We are in the business of trying to ensure that Australia's universities are as good as they can be. That is why we want to respect them by giving them their freedom. That is all we want to do: we want to give them their freedom. And that is a freedom that will be good for them, it will be good for their students and it will be good for our country.
I thank the member for Lyons for his question and for his representation in this place of that great heartland from Tasmania. On that note, I commend him and the members for Braddon and Bass, who last night brought producers from Tasmania here for the Taste of Tasmania. It was great to see those producers here in Canberra.
I can answer the member for Lyons by saying that the operation to repair the budget continued today. That was because we passed in this House the first tranche of welfare reform legislation, which, in doing so, brought about $2.7 billion in savings to the Commonwealth budget. That is in the context of the legacy of deficit and debt that we inherited from the former Labor government: deficits running out to $123 billion; a trajectory of Commonwealth debt of $667 billion. That means every month in Australia $1 billion is being spent in just paying the interest bill that we inherited from the Labor Party—$1 billion a month just to pay the interest bill—and, of course, if we ever got to the $667 billion, it would not be $1 billion a month, it would be $3 billion a month. For every Australian, every person sitting in this gallery today watching these proceedings, that would mean a $25,000 debt for every man, woman and child in Australia. That is the trajectory of debt that we inherited from the Labor Party, and that is why these measures today, in terms of repairing the surplus and in making sure we have a surplus in the future, is something that is so important, and $2.7 billion is an important down payment to achieving that for Australia.
But that is not the end of these proceedings. We reintroduced, as the member for Lyons knows, into the House this morning the substance of bills that were in the parliament previously so that we could continue to prosecute these changes that are needed for welfare in Australia. The big difference between the people sitting on this side of the House and those opposite is that we believe we should be doing everything we can to encourage Australians to be in work. By contrast, those on the other side are quite content that people remain on welfare for months and years and in some cases, tragically and sadly, for decades. That is the difference between us. We will continue to prosecute that legislation to ensure that Australians have work in the future, that they can contribute to the mainstream economy and the economic wellbeing of this country rather than just leaving them on welfare.