Only Labor can Deliver Accessible Uni - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Only Labor can Deliver Accessible Uni

I recently spoke on the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018.

This bill dropped the HECS dropped repayment threshold, meaning it will be harder for young people to go to uni.

You can read my full speech below.

It's important that we acknowledge that two tranches of amendments are being considered together: the first tranche by the government is to change some of the timing in relation to the implementation of these measures, and the second tranche that had come from the crossbench relates to loans fees in respect of the HECS arrangements and the FEE-HELP arrangements for certain table 2 institutions.

Labor will oppose both sets of amendments. Obviously they're being considered together. We are very concerned about the continuation of the coalition's war on young people. This is yet another example of this government trying to make it harder for people to get a higher education and trying to make it harder for people who are on low incomes to be able to get by. This is a government that doesn't care about the housing affordability crisis facing young people in this country. They absolutely do not care about the fact that young people are finding it harder and harder to get a quality education. It's not just the $270 million that was cut from vocational education in this year's budget. There was also $2.2 billion cut out of universities in MYEFO alone last year. This is yet another example of the war on young people. The government is now seeking to decrease the point at which people make a higher education contribution. This is an attempt to make people who are worse off pay HECS, even though they are demonstrably not receiving a private benefit from their higher education.

The purpose of HECS is for people to make a contribution in recognition of the private benefit they receive. How much private benefit is someone getting from their higher education if they're on 42 grand a year? How well off is someone on $42,000 or $45,000 a year? What do you think you're doing with these changes? You are making it harder for people to get by. You're making it harder for young people, particularly, to get by. We don't know, on this side of the House, why you hate young people so much. We don't know why the Turnbull government is so, so determined to make it harder for people to get a higher education.

Since the government were elected in 2013, they have taken every opportunity to attack the higher education sector. There was the 20 per cent public funding cut that they tried to bring in in the 2014 horror budget. They failed to get that through. Then there was the 7½ per cent funding cut plus an additional funding cut on top of that last year. They failed to get that through. They finally got through their $2.2 billion cut administratively, bypassing the parliament, in MYEFO, and now they're making a further attack on our university system and on young people, reducing the threshold so that people who are earning very low amounts of money have to start making an additional contribution to the Commonwealth government because they had the temerity to get above their station and go to university.

We know how the other side feels about us and the people that we represent going to university, because the Prime Minister has told us. The Prime Minister looked over at our side and said, 'Look at you people; you all went to university, ' as if having a higher education is something that we should be ashamed of. But we are proud of the fact that so many of us on this side of the parliament are the first in our family to go to university. Our parents might have left school at 15. Our grandparents might have had to live in a tent during the Depression. Our parents and our grandparents might have come from very, very working-class stock. But our parents worked hard and they helped put us through university. We understand aspiration on this side of the House. You lot like to talk about it. We like to demonstrate it. We are the living embodiment of it. That's why we'll stand up for students. That's why we'll stand up for people who go to university.

What do you think this bill is going to do to someone who goes to work for a charity, for a community legal centre, in a low-paid occupation? Do you think there's going to be an incentive to work in the community sector? Why would people do it? They're already going to take a discount on wages. Why would you punish them further by taxing them, by making further higher education contributions required so that you can just gather a little bit more money from them, even though they're working in that lower paid occupation?

Well, we won't stand for it. We'll stand up for aspiration. We'll stand up for people who want to go to university. We'll stand up for low-paid working people, because they deserve champions, and they will have them in this place as long as Labor is here. We will stand up for working people, and that includes people who went to university. It also includes vocational education. It also includes making sure that we do something about housing affordability. This government might be waging a war on young people, but young people will always have a voice in the Labor Party. The young people of Australia, who are this nation's future, will always have a voice. That's why we'll fight so hard on climate change. That's why we'll fight so hard for funding for vocational education and we'll stand up for public TAFE. That's why we'll always fight your cuts to university funding. That's why we'll always stand up against your cuts to the pension. And that's why we will oppose these amendments and this bill, because this bill punishes young people and it punishes lower paid workers—and you should be ashamed.

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