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Abbott rules out university debt collection after death -

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CHRIS UHLMANN: The Prime Minister has also ruled out collecting university student debt from dead people. The Government floated the idea yesterday and it appeared to have gathered traction this morning.

But Tony Abbott says there will be no changes to the current student loan rules.

For more on this, political reporter James Glenday joins me now.

And, James, was the Government seriously considering this?

JAMES GLENDAY: Well, it could raise up to $800 million a year and I think in a very tough budget this is something along the line that would have been considered. It was recommended by a policy specialist who has advised the Government on higher education and that was his best estimate, about $800 million a year.

And the money would come from graduates who die. It sounds a bit morbid. But essentially there's quite a lot of university graduates who either stop working, they work part-time, or they never earn more than $51,000 a year and therefore they currently are never forced to actually pay their student debts back.

Now the Education Minister Christopher Pyne said yesterday to journalists that he had no objection to this idea and the Treasurer Joe Hockey seemed to hint the idea was at least considered this morning.

JOE HOCKEY: Well, no, if you owe money to the Government or you owe money to the bank, that debt is applied to your estate if you pass away, but it doesn't go to your parents or your siblings or anything else. So, it's no different. It's a loan.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Treasurer Joe Hockey. So the balloon went up, James, but what has Tony Abbott had to say about it this morning?

JAMES GLENDAY: Well, he shot it down, I think it's fair to say. He's ruled it out completely. He says there will be no changes in this area. He spoke to the ABC a very short time ago.

TONY ABBOTT: I want to make it absolutely crystal clear: This Government is not going to change the existing rules and the existing rules in respect of university debts, fee help debts, HECS debts are that they cease, they cease on decease, as it were.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Prime Minister Tony Abbott ending that report by political reporter, James Glenday.