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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 150

Education


Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (14:31): My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, I refer you to this email from Jenny, a local nurse in my electorate of Higgins who, under the previous government's proposed $2,000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses, would struggle to afford to maintain and improve her accreditation as a medical professional. Minister, how has the government addressed Jenny's concerns?


Mr PYNE (Sturt—Minister for Education and Leader of the House) (14:31): I thank the member for Higgins for her question on the self-education expenses cap which the previous government decided earlier this year they would introduce on deductible expenses for legitimate education. This was a classic act of self-harm and it damaged the education sector. The previous government decided that they would take funding from the university sector to fund increases in spending on schools. They made a number of serious cuts to the university sector in a climate in which they had already reduced the amount of revenue flowing to universities from our international education market—substantially reduced revenue to universities over five years. They then decided this year that they would cut higher education further. One of those cuts was to introduce a cap of $2,000 on self-education expenses. It was a classic case of Labor taking a sledgehammer to smash a walnut.

They claimed at the time that there were myriad examples of the education deduction being rorted by high-income earners. They have yet to produce any evidence that that has been the case. In fact, 80 per cent of the people who have claimed the self-education expenses deduction over many years have had incomes of less than $80,000 per annum. They were low- and middle-income earners. Greg Craven, the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University described this move as 'the streaker's cap'. He said it sounded like 'a good idea at the time'. This government came to power and, on sober reflection, realised that the damage it would do to productivity and the higher education sector was not worth the savings the previous government had claimed, so the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, in their wisdom, decided that we would not proceed with the self-education expenses cap.

That means that policemen, nurses, public servants and many low- and middle-income earners in Australia will be able to improve their skills. It is a productivity measure for us to not proceed with this cap. It will help the economy. What it confirms is that the coalition is the real friend of low- and middle-income earners in this place, which is why we on this side of the House represent so many of them. It also confirms that, while Labor talks tough and big about their representation of the workers, what they really represent is not the workers, who pay their dues to join a union and then do not get the representation they were told they would get, but the workers' bosses—the union leaders.