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Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Page: 248


Mr Bowen asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, in writing, on 10 March 2005:

For (a) Australia, and (b) the electoral division of Prospect, what was the (i) total outstanding Student Financial Supplement Scheme loan balance, and (ii) number of outstanding loans at the conclusion of the scheme.


Dr Nelson (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(a)   The total amount of outstanding Student Financial Supplement Scheme loan balance and the number of outstanding loans cannot be reliably ascertained as two separate sets of dissimilar data are maintained by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Centrelink. Under the Student Financial Supplement Scheme, a student took out a loan with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In the first five years of the loan, repayments are voluntary. In the fifth year from when each loan was taken out that loan is referred to the ATO. Once the student’s income reaches the threshold ($37,667 in 2004-05 prices) the student is required to make repayments of the loan through the taxation system. The ATO holds data relating to Student Financial Supplement Scheme debts incurred in the years 1993 to 1999. Repayment of these loans is income-contingent. Centrelink holds the data relating to loans incurred in the years 1999 to 2003. Repayments for these loans are still voluntary. This data will be progressively handed over to the ATO until 2008 when the last of the loans become due for income-contingent collection through the taxation system. Trying to compare the different data distorts the actual amounts owing as the records refer to different data sets. ATO and Centrelink maintain separate and dissimilar records. Under the Student Financial Supplement Scheme a student had to make a separate loan application and sign a separate contract for each calendar year in which they took out a loan. Centrelink treats each loan as a separate debt with some students having multiple debts. By contrast, the ATO consolidates each separate debt amount received from Centrelink into one debt amount for collection purposes. The ATO estimates that total outstanding debt as at 11 May 2005 (the date of the Parliamentary question) in respect of Student Financial Supplement Scheme loans held by persons with a residential address in Australia is $1,338,224,166; and the number of clients with outstanding debts was 157,572. Centrelink estimates that the total outstanding debt as at 31 December 2003 (the most recently available figures), in respect of loans held by persons with a residential address in Australia, was $943,494,316; and the number of outstanding loans as at 31 December 2003 was 223,096. The number of loans does not equate to the number of clients.

(b)   The amount of outstanding Student Financial Supplement Scheme loan balance and the number of outstanding loans in the electorate of Prospect cannot be ascertained. The ATO advises that their data is not able to be sorted by electoral division. Centrelink is able to sort the data it manages on the loans by postcode. The information for the electorate of Prospect is indicative only, as some postcodes in the electorate of Prospect cross electoral boundaries. Centrelink has advised that for loans incurred in the years 1999 to 2003 for persons residing in postcodes within the electorate of Prospect: