Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9554

Higher Education


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:54): My question is to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Payne, representing the Minister for Education. Given the many benefits to students from the government's higher education reforms, can the minister advise the Senate of why students should reject the scare campaign against these reforms?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:55): I thank Senator Seselja for the question. He is absolutely right. There are enormous benefits for students in these higher education reforms. For a start, they will ensure access to the best higher education possible in Australia. They will have massive scholarship support. There will be Commonwealth support for all Australian undergraduates, meaning lower fees for many and better pathways into higher education.

Senator Kim Carr: $5.8 billion worth of cuts!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr!

Senator PAYNE: So, students should reject the scare campaign, because it just is not true. In fact, just today Dr Geoff Sharrock of the LH Martin Institute at the University of Melbourne has published an article headed 'Labor's '$100,000 degree' projections are misleading'. And he proves why. He says:

The problem is that the ALP’s “debt sentence” case studies are misleading.

Even the shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh, gives the lie to the scare campaign on fees when he says that there is no reason to think that fee deregulation will adversely affect poorer students. He knows that, because under HECS no student needs to pay a cent up-front, and no-one needs to repay anything—

Senator Kim Carr: Now they've got a lifetime to pay it off!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr!

Senator PAYNE: until they are earning over $50,000. And universities have made it clear that there will not be the exorbitant fees claimed by the scare campaigners. In fact, the so-called modelling that the scare campaign uses is typically pure invention. What about the NTEU? What they do is take a figure and then add a mystery 25 per cent surcharge, and then they double it. Why don't you just pluck it from mid-air? It would be just as credible. But fortunately students overwhelmingly realise that undertaking higher education is the best investment in their future and in themselves that they will ever make.








Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of the views of higher education leavers about the scare campaign against these reforms?

Senator Conroy interjecting


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:57): I note that Senator Conroy refers to higher education leavers as 'rent seekers', which is interesting. So, nobody over there will be at Universities Australia's reception next week, will you? No! You are not hypocrites!

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy!

Senator PAYNE: All of the university groupings in Australia have made it clear that there will not be exorbitant fee increases. Let us start with the Australian Technology Network, and Vicki Thomson, who says:

Don't be fooled by $100,000 degrees …

… the university sector is not looking to introduce standard $100,000 degrees and deregulation won’t deliver them.

I repeat: there is nothing to fear from deregulated fees for undergraduate degrees.

Senator Bilyk interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk!

Senator PAYNE: Universities are not stupid. They know that if they set their prices too high they will end up with empty lecture theatres. In fact, Open Universities Australia and COPHE have both said that there will be significant fee reductions. But don't let the truth get in the way of a good story for those opposite. The Regional University Network says— (Time expired)

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy!







Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:58): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister further advise the Senate of how the government's reforms will ensure that higher education is affordable and accessible for students?

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong!



Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:58): I do want to complete the quote from the Regional University Network, because it is very important—about accessibility and affordability for students, which Senator Seselja has just asked about:

… RUN considers that the only way the sector can maintain quality and remain internationally competitive is through the deregulation of student fees.

That is a quote from the Regional University Networks. But in terms of affordability and accessibility, and particularly for disadvantaged students, we know that under HECS no student needs to pay anything up-front and does not need to repay until they are earning $50,000.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator PAYNE: They interject about student debt. And, as I have made clear in the chamber previously and as Minister Pyne has said repeatedly, the government is open to considering alternative approaches to the interest rate. We welcome constructive suggestions—

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong!

Senator PAYNE: but we will not hold our breath for any from those opposite, will we?

We might look elsewhere around the chamber to people who are prepared to be constructive in relation to this matter. (Time expired)