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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12275

Mr PASIN (Barker) (15:52): So much to say, so little time. I will begin by calling this what it is: one hell of a scare campaign. I would love to say I am not a punter, but I am—and I would be prepared to lay odds that the Labor Party have focus-grouped the words 'Americanisation', 'debt sentence' and 'hundred-thousand-dollar degrees'. It would be nice to come into this place and have a mature debate about an important structural reform that this country needs. But that is not what we are getting. In the lead-up to question time, during 90-second statements, the member for Perth came in and talked about a constituent who was already, as a result of the 'changes', modifying the way she was going about her tertiary degree. These are changes that would come into effect, if we legislate them, in 2016!

Because this is a scare campaign, the debate is being reframed by the Labor Party. It is no longer about increasing competition in the tertiary sector. It is not about telling the Australian people that they will not need to pay for their degrees up-front and that they will only be asked to repay the cost of their degree once they are earning over $50,000. It is not a debate about the fact that currently 60 per cent of the Australian population subsidise the 40 per cent to get a tertiary degree to the tune of 60 per cent and that this legislation will recalibrate that to a split of fifty-fifty; but rather, disingenuously, it is a debate about, effectively, free education—a debate that was put to bed in the seventies.

I thought I might just reflect on a once proud leader of the Labor Party, Paul Keating:

There is no such thing, of course, as "free" education. Someone has to pay. In systems with no charges, those somebody's are all taxpayers.

But do not take it from a former leader of the Labor Party; let's take it from a member of the current Labor Party who sits just down there—I suspect he is just outside being subjected to another re-education program—Dr Andrew Leigh:

Australian universities should be free to set student fees according to the market for their degrees. A deregulated or market based HECS will make the student contribution system fairer, because the fees students pay will more closely approximate the value they receive through future earnings.

That is sensible and it is probably the reason why he is being re-educated as we speak!

In the time I have a remaining I want to highlight the benefits to regional students.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr PASIN: You know what? I am going to give you an example of sub-bachelor degrees. If those opposite new where Mt Gambier was, I could tell that recently a collaboration between the University of South Australia and the world-renowned Australian jazz musician James Morrison was formed to established the James Morrison Academy of Music. That is a collaboration between James Morrison and the University of South Australia. When it begins it will provide sub-bachelor degrees to 70 students. They are diplomas and associate degrees. These tertiary opportunities would not be funded under the existing HELP legislation. Under the current legislation that those opposite support who want to get a Diploma in Music or an Associate Degree in Music from Mt Gambier's jazz centre of excellence, the James Morrison Academy, would have to—wait for it—stump the money up-front. Do you know what they get if those in the other place accept our very sensible reforms? Would they get is an opportunity to undertake that study and become world renowned jazz musicians, and they get it via a mechanism wherein they do not have to pay any money up front—not a cent. Under those opposite they would have to pay up-front every single cent. Under our proposals they are eligible for the Higher Education Loan Program.

I would love the member for Kingston to come to Mt Gambier with me next year and we will talk to those students and we will tell them—the member for Kingston will be honest with them, I am sure, and she will say, 'I wanted you to pay up-front, but that bloke over there, the member for Barker, he was happy for you to— (Time expired)