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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1711


Senator WATSON (3.20 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cook this day, to questions asked by Senator Watson during the consideration of the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1994 on 8 June 1994.

Honourable senators will be aware that one of the issues in the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1994 concerned the bringing forward of the collections of certain HECS fees. However, senators were also aware that, despite reservations on our side about certain critical matters in the legislation, the Liberal Party listened to the request from the three tiers of the higher education constituency, that is, the students, the tertiary education groups and the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, for us to support the legislation. We therefore did not proceed with our amendments. In other words, according to true democratic principle, the Liberal Party listened to and responded to the constituents who were most affected by the legislation.

  I am concerned, and so are other groups, to have received today a report from the Students Association of South Australia Inc. The association reminded us that, when the legislation was announced, it was assured that it would not affect holiday pay or part-time or casual work done during the course of study; it would apply only to those leaving full-time study. The association says:

Now it is apparent that this assurance is worthless. The government does not appear to be honouring this promise to exempt those still studying from the paying of HECS debt provisionally.

I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard that letter.

    Leave granted.

  The letter read as follows

Tuesday, June 14, 1994

Senator John Watson

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Senator Watson,

We write regarding our concern which was raised by Senator Watson in the Senate on Wednesday 8 June. It relates primarily to the proposed introduction of a pro rata calculation for the repayment of the HECS debt, and was raised in discussions regarding the PAYE legislation, to which it is closely linked.

If the proposed legislation goes ahead unchecked, students whose weekly or fortnightly pay during the holiday period (or during semester, for that matter) is the equivalent of a yearly income of $26,852 will be forced to pay back an extra 3% of their pay packet (4% or 5% if they reach the subsequent threshold levels) which previously would have been paid back only once they had graduated and found full-time employment.

This is not only inequitable, but totally out of touch with the lifestyles of students forced to support themselves through tertiary study. Many students work furiously during holiday periods to save enough money to live on through the semester, and for this reason they will often earn high weekly wages which result in low yearly incomes. It is unfair that these students should be slugged with an added tax which will make it even more difficult to survive through the year—on the other hand, students whose income is consistent, but lower on a weekly basis, will not suffer.

When this legislation was announced we were assured that it would not affect holiday work, or part-time or casual work done during the course of study, but would apply only to those leaving full time study: it is now apparent that this assurance is worthless. The Government does not appear to be honouring this promise to exempt those still studying from repaying their HECS debt provisionally.

We believe that this is simply not good enough. Students are being attacked from all sides, and mere subsistence is becoming more difficult with every added piece of legislation. Once this legislation comes into effect, students could conceivably be repaying HECS from `day one' of their degree, and this is only one step away from upfront fees. Isn't the Labor Party opposed to such regressive and inequitable measures?

We strongly urge you to stand up for the livelihood of students when the Senate discusses this legislation, to ensure that students are exempted from compulsorily repaying their HECS debt until the completion of their degree.

Yours sincerely,

REBECCA SHINNICK

President.

Students' Association of the

University of Adelaide (SAUA)

Ph: 303 5406 Fax: 223 2412

KIRSTEN ANDREWS

President

University of South Australia

Students' Association

Parliament House: 303 4604 Fax: 303 4392


Senator WATSON —I thank the Senate. I now call upon the government, when it considers further legislation that will now be necessary in relation to those HECS fees and pro rata amounts, to consider the representations made by the students, whom we listen to and whom we ask the government now to listen to, to ensure that pro rata holiday pay is exempted from that pro rata entitlement. I thank the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.