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Thursday, 25 May 2023
Page: 3716

Ms WATSON-BROWN (Ryan) (13:39): On 1 June about three million Australians will be hit with a crushing debt avalanche when student debt skyrockets by 7.1 per cent, on top of the astronomical $74 billion of debt they already have. This is going to impact thousands in my electorate of Ryan, home to the University of Queensland. This is the biggest increase since 1990. Why is it increasing? Because of the irrational, punitive policy of indexing HECS debt to inflation. It's bad enough that we're saddling people with debt in the first place. The Labor Party once introduced free university education, in the Gough Whitlam years. I was a grateful beneficiary. But the Labor Party of today is not the party of Gough Whitlam. Today's Labor won't even scrap this horrendous indexation that'll see debt expand beyond people's ability to repay. For many, this is decades of repayment.

The problems facing our university sector don't stop at student fees and HECS debt. Junior staff are struggling with casual contracts, short contracts and shocking rates of unpaid extra hours. Power is being centralised in the hands of vice-chancellors on million-dollar salaries, and boards are stacked with people from huge corporations. Research freedom is being strangled by reliance on corporate money. We desperately need a wholesale overhaul of our university sector. Let's put students, lecturers, tutors and researchers back at the heart of it.