ENTREPRENEUR and aspiring national leader Clive Palmer has announced that the Palmer United Party would abolish tertiary education fees if elected to government in next month’s federal election.
Mr Palmer claimed that education policy is an essential aspect of his party’s platform on social issues, and also served as an important stimulant to the national economy. He said that a range of economic growth initiatives — including reforms to business tax – would generate the revenue needed to cover the cost of tertiary education.
Mr Palmer said: “We need Australia’s cleverest people taking themselves and this great nation forward, not burying them under a mountain of debt. The loss of just one year’s income due to unemployment is more than the total cost of 12 years of schooling so why wouldn’t we be doing everything we can to encourage people to study and pursue their careers?
“That’s why, once elected, the Palmer United Party will remove tertiary fees such as HECS to make the dream of higher education accessible to all and show the world that Australia really is the smart country. Good education policy is good social policy, which is good economic policy.”
Mr Palmer claims that there are a number of modifications that could be made to the federal government’s revenue stream that could fund his higher education scheme. He said that changing the system to allow businesses to pay their taxes annually rather than quarterly would effectively inject around $70 billion into the national economy.
Tertiary education fees were previously abolished under the radical Whitlam government in 1974. The Whitlam reforms remained in place until 1989, when the Labor government led by Prime Minister Bob Hawke implemented the HECS program to attract revenue from every student enrolled in a university degree.
Reforms undertaken by the Howard government in 2007 altered the tertiary education payment system again, with a shift from HECS to HECS-HELP that included a range of stipulations including a cap on funding at seven years of full-time university education. The reforms also marked the introduction of FEE-HELP, a program designed to fund post-graduate education for Australians that intended to engage in further study.
HELP debts are currently managed through the Australian Tax Office, and are repaid as an addition to standard income tax. Individuals earning under $39 500 throughout the financial year are currently not required to make a compulsory payment, while those earning more than this figure are required to repay their debt on a sliding scale of contribution.