Thursday, 30 October 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to NATSEM modelling that shows that under the Prime Minister's unfair university changes a young woman studying to become a vet would owe over $437,000 for her degree, meaning she would never repay her HELP debt. Why does the Prime Minister want to saddle millions of Australians with a debt sentence?
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to answer this question about the so-called NATSEM modelling, because I point out that part of the NATSEM modelling has simply assumed that the Commonwealth Grant Scheme reduction will be replaced with student fees—and many universities have already indicated—
Opposition members interjecting—
that there will be some courses where the price will drop and other universities, like the University of Western Australia, have indicated that they will have one flat fee across the sector.
Dr Chalmers interjecting—
For some unknown reason, the NATSEM modelling also simply adds 50 per cent to that figure. So there is no credibility to the NATSEM modelling whatsoever. NATSEM is housed at the only university in Australia that has not fulsomely endorsed these reforms. That is the only one—the University of Canberra. Every other university is supporting reform of the higher education sector because they know—
Mr Shorten interjecting—
that we need to get more revenue for universities. They know that at the moment students are paying about 40 per cent on average of the cost of their education and the taxpayer is paying 60 per cent. University vice-chancellors know that these reforms will simply mean that students will pay, along with the taxpayer, about 50 per cent to get the best Higher Education Contribution Scheme loan in the world. They will not have to pay $1 upfront and not have to start paying back until they earn over $50,000 a year and even then they can only be asked to pay two per cent of their income.
So the Higher Education Contribution Scheme stays. Students from low-SES backgrounds will get advantaged by the expansion of the demand-driven system to more of the courses that they do, like at the University of Western Sydney, and use to get into undergraduate degrees. This is the largest Commonwealth scholarships fund in Australian history. The entire sector has been saying they want to support these reforms in order to have quality universities and to give more students the opportunity to go to university and do courses that will lead to jobs, unlike the current system where they are rewarded for simply churning students into courses, regardless of whether there are jobs at the end of them.
But do not just take my word for it. I am pleased to have the opportunity to repeat a quote from our friend, the shadow Assistant Treasurer. I can see it properly now because I have my glasses on. He wrote, in 'Recapturing the Nation-Building Zeal':
… there is no reason to think that deregulated student fees will adversely affect poorer students.
How does that sit with the Leader of the Opposition's position? How does that sit with Labor's position? The truth is he has blown a hole below the waterline of the Leader of the Opposition. You know it, and your campaign is going nowhere.
Honourable members interjecting—