Christopher Pyne has hailed his higher education reforms as the “greatest” of our time as he introduced legislation to parliament.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne says his proposed higher education changes are a one-off opportunity to give effect to the “greatest reforms of our time”.
Mr Pyne was introducing controversial legislation to parliament on Thursday which deregulates university fees, extends commonwealth-supported places to private providers and raises the interest rate for student loans.
The changes were the only opportunity to ensure Australia had the best higher education system in the world, the minister argued.
“If we don’t act, and act now, we risk (the) system falling into a downward spiral towards mediocrity,” he told the lower house.
“The reform bill gives effect to some of the greatest higher education and research reforms of our time.”
Allowing universities to set their own fees will help them attract the best and brightest students and give them a competitive edge against regional neighbours.
Changes were necessary because of the spiralling costs to taxpayers, who are now paying more than $2 billion in student income support.
It was time students picked up a fairer share of the interest tab – and that’s why the government was hiking the debt rate from the consumer price index to the higher government bond rate.
“It’s the best deal an Australian will ever get,” Mr Pyne said.
The bill’s passage through the lower house is guaranteed but the Senate still poses an obstacle.
Labor, the Greens, Palmer United Party and a couple of other crossbenchers staunchly oppose the reforms.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT PLANS:
* Deregulate fees higher education providers can charge students from 2016
* Expand commonwealth funding to private providers and diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees
* Cut government per-student funding by an average of 20 per cent
* Lifts the interest rate on student loan debt to the 10-year government bond rate, capped at six per cent
* Lower the debt repayment threshold from 2016/17 to $50,638
* Require universities to use 20 per cent of extra money raised from increased fees for scholarships to support disadvantaged students
* Scrap loan fees and lifetime limits for fee-paying undergraduates and vocational education students
* Introduce fees of up to $3900 for research post-graduate degrees including doctorates and masters
* Scrap HECS-HELP discounts for teaching, nursing, maths, science and early childhood education courses
* Scrap discounts for up-front and voluntary repayments of HELP debts
* Allow some New Zealand citizens to access HELP loans from 2015