Second Reading Speech - Higher Education Support Amendment

This bill makes modest increases in study areas where skills demand doesn't exist because we need fewer graduates in that area, and it makes it cheaper to study in areas where there is skills demand.

When you step back and put it like that, you go, 'Well, this is just plain common sense.' The fact that we have spent so long in this chamber with people bleating at the injustice of it, carrying on as though this represents an enormous human rights violation—confected outrage of the most exaggerated sort—it makes me understand why so many Australians think this place is out of touch. Most Australians don't expect this. They don't expect free everything. Most Australians don't expect to be educated for free in an area of unicorn fantasy study for which there are no jobs and which others should be paying off, despite the fact they didn't get the same kind of education themselves. This is the kind of utter nonsense that explains to me precisely why Australians get frustrated with politicians.

Let's do another quick fact check before I wrap up. There has been a lot of talk about student debt and, yes, we do ask students to make a contribution to their education. But let's not pretend that they don't also get support. Overall, Australian taxpayers will continue to pay more than half of the cost of Commonwealth supported places in universities, with funding prioritised to the areas of high public benefit and those areas most needed by the labour market. Quite frankly, to do anything else would be a dereliction of our duty to the taxpayer. It's right for people to invest in their own education, because they get some private benefit. But with that 50 per cent contribution from the Commonwealth, the public benefit that comes from having an educated society is also recognised. It is fair to students, to our economy and to the taxpayer; it is fair for all.