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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21546

Ms CORCORAN (7:12 PM) —In addressing opposition amendment (4), which I support, I want to make a couple of points. I have heard in this debate during the day that HECS debt is not a deterrent to students. I want to put paid to that straightaway. It is interesting that this point is made by those opposite, because the government are continually carrying on about public debt and how clever they think they have been in reducing debt, and yet they are quite happy to have students go into significant debt. The students who speak to me are deterred from going on to further education by the prospect of a huge HECS debt. Debt is not necessarily a bad thing but it has to be incurred (a) for a good purpose and (b) in a way that is repayable. The students I am speaking to tell me that these increases are not repayable. A number of students are saying that they are going to bring forward their postgraduate studies to next year in an attempt to avoid this increase in their debt. An increase in this debt is a deterrent to students going on to further education, and it is a deterrent to those students who come from low-income families. It is a shift from funding education from the public purse to funding it from the private purse. It is one of many examples of that shift we have seen in the course of this parliament.

The second point I want to make is that, by deterring some students from going into higher education, we are as a nation wasting our resources. We want to encourage all students to go on to further education. If we are not as a nation using our resources to our best advantage, we are not giving ourselves any advantage or doing ourselves a favour, and we are creating problems for individuals as well. The good students are not necessarily those with the deep pockets. We need to make sure that we are encouraging all our capable students to get into a university place.

I am dismayed to see that, over recent years, HECS has moved from something like 20 per cent of the cost of a course to something like 40 per cent. That is having an effect right now, as we speak. I am very pleased to support this amendment. It will stop HECS from moving up and it will stop universities from moving beyond the 30 per cent limit in time to come. It will help good students get into university. It will stop students from low-income families from perhaps not wanting to go to university, and it allows us as a nation to make the best use of our resources.

Question put:

That the amendment (Ms Macklin's) be agreed to.