Labor today introduced a private Senator’s bill to fix an inequity in our higher education system that Christopher Pyne has been callously ignoring in his ideological pursuit of $100,000 degrees.
Under current laws, young people who came to Australia from New Zealand as minors, or were born in Australia to New Zealand parents, cannot access Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) loans for university study, even though they are eligible for Commonwealth Supported Places for undergraduate degrees.
his means that access to Australian universities for these young people depends on their ability to pay student contributions upfront.
Labor announced in the 2013 Budget that we would fix this inequity, and the Liberals agreed this was sensible policy.
But Christopher Pyne took these young people’s education hostage when he included this measure in his twice-failed legislation to Americanise Australian universities.
Labor opposed the two higher education bills in their entirety, because the Abbott Government’s plan is unfair, unnecessary and unsustainable.
But we acknowledged that the bills included a number of bipartisan measures that should have been dealt with separately.
From the start, we called on Christopher Pyne to split the bills and allow the Parliament to deal with this matter expeditiously.
Instead, Christopher Pyne has kept thousands of young people in limbo for more than a year while he continues to pursue his reckless plan for $100,000 degrees.
Labor’s private Senator’s bill seeks to break the impasse and give the Senate a chance to express its will on this supposedly bipartisan measure.
The Higher Education Support (New Zealand Citizens) Bill 2015 will amend the current citizenship and residency requirements for accessing HECS-HELP and other HELP loans.
It will open up access to HELP loans for New Zealand citizens who were born in Australia or came here as a minor and grew up in this country.
Labor believes the Commonwealth Government has a clear responsibility when it comes to building a fair, equitable and affordable university system.
Young people who were born in Australia and educated in Australian schools should not be forced to move back to New Zealand to access a quality university education just because their parents cannot afford to pay the student contribution upfront.
There is no reason why this legislation should not receive bipartisan support and we call on the Liberals to do the right thing and vote for the bill.