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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3243

Senator MACKLIN(12.13) —I thank the Minister. I wish now to refer to the other topic which is really almost solely contained within the Overseas Students Charge Collection Amendment Bill. I refer to the way in which this charge might be able to be paid. Since the charge is there and since the Minister and the Department of Education in particular have been involved in what can only be called some very unfortunate incidents in terms of deporting people who are studying in Australia because of non-payment of fees-a visa charge-I would have thought that it is in the interests of the Government and of the students to come up with a more satisfactory way of payment. I remind honourable senators that the amounts we are now talking about are considerable even in Australian terms. I think most Australian families will be hard pressed to come up with that amount of money in one hit.

Senator Peter Baume —What are you suggesting?

Senator MACKLIN —My suggestion in these amendments is that payment be made in four instalments over the year. The idea of the instalment system is two-fold: Fairly obviously it will lessen the burden at any particular time and will also do something in terms of the Government's invidious situation with regard to deportations. I would have thought that if there was an instalment operation the leeway between one instalment payment and the next could be taken as the grace time, as it were. When a student got to, say, the second or the third instalment period, whatever it happened to be, and had not paid the previous instalment, it would be obvious to the student, his family and the Government that that student would not be in a position to be able to afford the fees over that year. What happened in a case that the Minister knows well is that the student was finally able to come up with that money a day or two later. But getting all that money together must be an enormous burden for many families. I would have thought that since this will be almost, but not quite, revenue neutral it might alleviate the Government of that type of embarrassment. It is an embarrassment not only to the Government but also to Australia because it does not give us good publicity in papers in overseas countries. It will also assist students and their families in meeting these ever rising costs.