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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9586

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (11:15): On a case-by-case basis. We all know what happens when you have a political problem. A minister in the future—I am not making accusations of this minister—long past this debate will not recall this discussion, will not recall these circumstances and will say to a secretary: 'I want this problem fixed'. A future secretary will be able to go to this clause—and we are talking about the cap on their loans, not their fees, but the cap on their loans—and say 'Oh yes, the case-by-case arrangements demonstrate that this is a matter of national importance and it is towards the employment in a licensed occupation, so this applies to a licensed aircraft engineer or to an enrolled nurse', and a range of other areas can be exempted to fix a political problem for a minister.

The better approach is to go to the question of the cost of the course. What happens here is that you have a loan which then, of course, determines the cost of the course. It is around the wrong way and, of course, this is exactly what has been happening—the fact that you can have up to $97,000 worth of borrowings means that that is where the course rises go to. Whereas the approach that I think needs to be taken, as occurs in the universities, is that you limit the amount of money that a provider can charge the student. That is what happens in universities, and we do that for universities with no great ill effect that I can identify. My proposal allows for the discretion to be with the secretary, agreed, through disallowable instruments so we get to see in detail what it means. This provision is too broad and does not directly meet the criteria that Senator Lazarus, I think in good intent, has sought to present to this chamber in terms of the constituents he is representing in Queensland.