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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12260

Higher Education

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (15:06): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to NATSEM modelling which shows that under the Prime Minister's plan to saddle Australians with a debt sentence, a Victorian nursing student would pay $40,000 more, and it would take them nine years longer to pay off their debt. Why is the Prime Minister forcing Australians to choose between owning their own home and going to university?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (15:06): We have speculation from the opposition versus the fact, which is that members opposite saddled every single Australian man, woman and child with a debt of $25,000. That is what was going: $25,000 per man, woman and child. That was the debt trap that members opposite left our nation. That was the intergenerational theft that members opposite were guilty of saddling our children and grandchildren with to pay for their vote buying schemes. That is exactly what members opposite did. Now they are in denial.

Mr Shorten interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: The Leader of the Opposition, who cannot keep quiet—sitting across the ministerial table, he just cannot keep quiet—is in denial. The more he babbles the more obvious it is that he is simply in denial about the debt and deficit disaster that he was in up to his neck, having executed two prime ministers—

Mr Shorten interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition will desist.

Mr ABBOTT: in the previous government. I have been asked about university fees. No-one will need to pay a dollar up-front. No-one will need to repay a dollar until his or her income is over $50,000.

Mr Shorten interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition will desist or leave. The choice is his.

Mr ABBOTT: Every single dollar will be covered by HECS or FEE-HELP, which stays, and fully 50 per cent of the cost of every student's education will be covered by the taxpayer. What we are doing is perfectly reasonable. It is a perfectly reasonable development of the policies that were put in place by a great Labor leader, Bob Hawke. Let me read from Labor's shadow Assistant Treasurer:

Australian universities should be free to set student fees—

Mr Shorten interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: Boring? This is your own shadow Assistant Treasurer.

An opposition member interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: No, this is our friend the shadow Assistant Treasurer:

Australian universities should be free to set student fees according to the market value of their degrees. Universities will have a strong incentive to compete on price and quality. Much-needed additional funding will be available to universities that capitalise on their strengths and develop compelling educational offerings. The result will be a better funded, more dynamic and competitive education sector.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my right!

Mr ABBOTT: Be ready to be bored, because you will have thrown back in your face day-in day-out this common sense from the shadow Assistant Treasurer.