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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3244


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(12.14) —There are many problems with the amendment proposed by Senator Macklin to allow students to pay the charge four times a year. It would quadruple the administrative burden on the overseas students State offices and on the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs regional offices. Those two offices would have to process each student's case four times a year rather than once a year, so it would be increasing the work load by four; defaulting students would have to be pursued for four instalments, increasing the burden of recovery action; termination of studies for non-payment of the charge would be complicated; the application of the refund provisions would be more complicated; and staff increases would be required to meet the increased work load. Additional automatic data processing hardware and software would be required to monitor the payment of the charge made in instalments.

On balance, the Government's view is that it is not appropriate for the Australian taxpayer to be asked to pay for the additional administrative costs which would be involved in increasing fourfold the administration of the program. The students are already in receipt of a substantial subsidy from the Australian taxpayer. We think that in the present circumstances it is not fair to ask the taxpayer to subsidise the program even further. Overseas students know quite well in advance the level of the charge they will be required to meet. They have to organise their finances well in advance in any event. While in Australia they are able to earn money to pay their living expenses. They know what their tutorial expenses are well in advance. Despite the fact that there would be some attractions to Senator Macklin's suggestion the overall administrative burden and cost cannot justify our acceptance of that proposal.