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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7161

Higher Education


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Payne, representing the Minister for Education. Can the minister inform the Senate of the opportunities that the government's higher education reforms will provide for higher education students?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:42): I thank Senator Ruston for her question. I think the most important thing to emphasise about the government's higher education package is the way—in fact, several ways—in which it will make higher education more accessible. For example, by 2018, over 80,000 students will be receiving Commonwealth support for the first time in higher education diploma and similar courses, and in whatever registered higher education institution they choose to study. Many of those students will be coming from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Each year, another 80,000 students will benefit, on average by $1,600 a year, from the abolition of the 20 per cent loan fee on VET FEE-HELP loans. As well as that, another 50,000 students will benefit from the abolition of the 25 per cent loan on FEE-HELP itself.

Then there is the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. It will be the largest scholarship scheme in Australia's history. It will provide support, including with living costs, for many students from disadvantaged backgrounds around Australia. These are reforms that promote accessibility for students. They will also ensure that Australian students have access to high-quality education in this country. As Belinda Robinson, who is the Chief Executive of Universities Australia, wrote this week:

It is simply not possible to maintain the standards that students expect or the international reputation that Australia's university system enjoys without full fee deregulation.

The higher education reforms that Senator Ruston asks about will give Australian students access to high-quality education and it will be affordable. (Time expired)


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:44): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister further inform the Senate of any recent responses to the government's proposals?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:44): That is actually a very interesting question from Senator Ruston. While we have been working very hard to promote access to high-quality higher education for tens of thousands more students, the Labor Party, the Greens and the NTEU are continuing to try to run their pathetic scare campaign. Do you ever hear them remind anyone that no-one needs to pay a cent upfront? No. Do you ever hear them seriously discuss the need for reform of the higher education industry in Australia? No. What they do is they roll out absurdly inflated fee levels as part of their scare campaign. But the facts put the lie to that.

Senator Kim Carr: They are based on fact.

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator PAYNE: The NTEU's modelling, for example, had undergraduate fees well over $32,000 a year, as I recall. But, as we have seen at UWA, the undergraduate fees will be less than half what the NTEU projected—less than half. (Time expired)





Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:46): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate of further developments in relation to the proposed higher education reforms?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:46): On the question of what else is occurring in this particular policy area, we have some other classic modelling which has been rolled out by the rather hysterical scaremongers.

Senator Kim Carr: Where's the government's modelling? Produce the government's modelling.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr!

Senator PAYNE: There is one particular set that assumes domestic students would pay the same fees as international students. But, again, as the UWA fees show, they will be about half the typical fees for international students. In terms of further commentary, this week member institutions of the Council of Private Higher Education, known as COPHE, have said, 'Whatever we receive in Commonwealth support for students we pass on to students through reduced tuition fees.' As the Australian reported yesterday, 'Fees for courses in private colleges may fall by even half.' Certainly the indicative fee levels that have been published by COPHE show that the total cost of degrees will be significantly below what the alarmists and the scaremongers have been claiming. (Time expired)