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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1698

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (10:30): Thousands of my constituents are heading back to university this week or starting university for the first time. One of them is my younger daughter Abby. Sadly, they will be learning the unfortunate news that they will be slugged with a new tax for services that most are unwilling or unable to use. Thanks to Labor and the Greens, students are now being slugged with a compulsory services and amenities fee, costing up to $263 per year. This is an unwelcome burden for students already struggling to meet rising living costs. Many students who are studying part time or completing a post-graduate degree while working and juggling family life simply do not have the time nor the need to use on-campus services such as the sporting facilities.

A number of students have contacted me with their concerns. Simone, a science student, says that she is completely opposed to compulsory payments for services that she will not access. She wants to know why she has to subsidise social activities and cheap food, for example, and why this is considered the responsibility of the university, a higher education provider. She rightly points out that students who are sent away on lengthy placements cannot access such services during that time even if they wanted to. Another student, Drew, said that he is already struggling to pay rent and grocery bills and for textbooks and the like without having another bill to pay. Some will argue that students who cannot afford the upfront fee will be able to defer it to their HELP debt. But this will only end up costing more and more by the time you add interest.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives

Sitting suspended from 10:32 to 10 : 41

Mr EWEN JONES: Before the suspension, I was saying that a student's HELP debt will end up costing more and more when interest is added. I believe there should be a choice. That is why I have launched a petition calling for an end to this unfair compulsory fee, and I urge any student who feels dudded by having to pay this to sign the petition by visiting my facebook page.

These compulsory fees seem to be a throwback to the days when you left school and went to university full time. Today's modern university is hugely different, where some people do not actually go to the campus and do their course by correspondence. Student fees and amenity fees should reflect that. I have two daughters at university and I gladly pay their union fees. I think those fees should be paid, but the fees should not be compulsory. That is the key to it. If you use the services and if you get the benefits then you should pay, but you should not make people pay if they do not use the services. My wife is a member of the union when she did her honours degree and she was a great advocate for the union. However it should be voluntary.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 10:4 2 to 11:05

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): In accordance with standing order 193, the time for members constituency statements has concluded.