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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6740

Higher Education

Ms SCOTT (Lindsay) (15:04): My question is to the Minister for Education.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, a point of order: I was on my feet before the member for Lindsay, and also the call was already on this side.

The SPEAKER: No, the Leader of the Opposition had had the last question.

Mr Burke: That means there have been two questions in a row from the government side.

The SPEAKER: No. If you go back and check the record you will find I am correct. The member for Lindsay has the call.

Ms SCOTT: Will the minister outline to the House the private benefit that higher education can bring to Australian students? How will the government's reforms increase the opportunity for all to undertake higher education?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (15:05): I am delighted to get the last question of the day, and I am sure my colleagues will be very pleased as well that we are getting an opportunity to talk about higher education. The government's reforms to higher education spread opportunity to many more Australian students and will change the contribution that taxpayers and students make—

Dr Chalmers interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Rankin is warned.

Mr PYNE: from the current sixty-forty arrangements to fifty-fifty, which we think is a fair and reasonable contribution for students to make. I would like to read a letter I received from Graeme Mitchell, a graduate of the University of Western Sydney. It very much encapsulates exactly what the government is trying to achieve through our higher education reforms: 'My father died in my second-last year at high school. I lost all interest in education and bombed out. My then deputy principal told me and several colleagues we were dills and would never amount to much. I had to get a job to help support my family. My dad's death, my deputy principal's expressed opinion of me and the dead-end job I was obliged to take did nothing for my self-worth. I drifted from one dead-end job to another. In my 40s I became aware of HECS and applied for uni entry as a mature-age student, not thinking for a moment that I would make it, but I did. I graduated second in my course, in the top one per cent of all faculties, and won several outstanding-student awards. My academic achievement gave my self-worth an enormous boost. My degree got me a much better job and income, and I had the satisfaction of paying something back to the society that had supported me through uni. My HECS contribution was a pittance compared to my post-degree income.'

Graeme writes: 'My advice to uni students is to accept the generous contribution taxpayers make to your education and not look at HECS as a government imposed tax but look at the satisfaction—

Mr Snowdon interjecting

Ms Owens interjecting

Dr Chalmers interjecting

The SPEAKER: The members for Lingiari and Parramatta will desist, and the member for Rankin has been warned.

Mr PYNE: of having personally paid for some of it themselves.' Who could disagree with that? Who could disagree with Graeme Mitchell's stated remarks? He understands the transformative impact of higher education. Rather than whinge, moan and complain about being asked to contribute to his own higher education, he pulled himself up from the bootstraps, got himself the higher education qualifications he needed and massively increased his income and his self-worth.

The government is trying to reform higher education so that tens of thousands more Graeme Mitchells around Australia in places like Western Sydney in the member for Lindsay's electorate get the opportunity to do exactly what Graeme Mitchell did. Rather than caterwauling, interrupting and showing the crassness that the Labor Party exhibits, they should be thanking people like Graeme Mitchell because he is one of the salt-of-the-earth Australians that we want to hold up as heroes.