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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9398

Higher Education

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (14:45): My question is to the visionary Minister for Education. Minister, would you please outline to the House how the government's reforms to higher education will impact on students in vocational education and training—

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs is warned.

Mrs PRENTICE: and also those studying at nonuniversity higher education institutions? And, Minister, what support is the government receiving for these reforms?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:45): I am very glad to get the question from the member for Ryan and I am very pleased that the Leader of the Opposition allowed her to ask it, and that you gave her the call, Madam Speaker, because it is a very, very important subject that we are debating in the House today. One of the aspects of the government's higher education reforms is that we are abolishing the up-front fees that are charged on the FEE-HELP loans and VET FEE-HELP loans, the HECS-HELP scheme that applies to vocational education and training students as well as students at nonuniversity higher education providers. They are currently being charged a fee of 20 per cent for VET students and a fee of 25 per cent for nonuniversity higher education provider students.

As part of our reforms, we are abolishing those fees and that will help 50,000 students who are currently at nonuniversity higher education institutions, and it will help 80,000 students in vocational education and training, saving students over the next three years $723 million. I do not like to borrow a line too often but, dare I say it, this government is the best friend students have ever had. That is one of the reasons it is so important that the higher education reforms pass the House because VET students and students at nonuniversity higher education providers will be very much better off when this reform bill passes. I am not the only one who thinks so.

Mr Thistlethwaite interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Kingsford-Smith with leave the chamber under 94(a).

The member for Kingsford-Smith then left the chamber.

Mr PYNE: In The Australian today, a very well-known Australian, particularly well known to the opposition, Mr David Gonski, said: 'I think that the government has got it right and that there is a real chance that the deregulation of fees could produce further moneys—

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: I remind the member for Sydney that there is a general warning.

Mr PYNE: to be ploughed back to make unis greater, to improve the student experience, have higher teacher-student ratios' and so on. So David Gonski is on board with the government's higher education reforms.

Dare I say it, I give a Gonski. Does Mr Shorten give a Gonski? I am happy to take the Gonski pledge. My Gonski pledge is that I will support higher education reform, that will spread opportunity to more students around Australia, that will produce the best higher education system in the world and some of the best universities in the world. Everyone in the coalition has taken the Gonski pledge. I give a Gonski. Does Mr Shorten?