PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: Whatever happened to the Labor Party of Hawke and Keating? That is what I want to know, because the member for Gellibrand talks about what happened 30 years ago. I can tell you what happened 30 years ago: Australia elected the Hawke-Keating government.
On this side of the House, we proudly say that it was a good government. It was perhaps the best Labor government that Labor has had—and that is not a particularly high standard. It introduced some significant reforms, including economic reforms, deregulation of the economy and the reintroduction of tariffs.
But one of the most significant reforms that it introduced was the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, known as HECS. This great Hawke-Keating legacy was to introduce a scheme whereby the students themselves would contribute some money towards their higher education degrees, knowing that, by going to university themselves, they were likely to earn so much more money in the future. It just seemed sensible to the Hawke-Keating government that this was a good scheme to introduce and that students themselves should contribute.
In some respects, the reforms that we are introducing now are a logical extension of those Hawke-Keating reforms. They build on the HECS system which is in place. If you listened to Belinda Robinson, who is the head of Universities Australia, you would know that she herself says that these reforms are the logical evolution of higher education policy.
What these reforms do, just like the Hawke HECS reforms, is open up opportunities for tens of thousands more students. We estimate that 80,000 more people will be able to access higher education as a result of the reforms that we are introducing, because, for the very first time, sub-degrees will be part of the HECS system. This means that an associate degree, or a diploma, will now not have to be paid for up-front but will be part of the HECS system. This is so good for people from families who have not previously attended higher education, because they can often use those qualifications as a pathway into a higher education degree. This is what we are talking about with these reforms. They will open up opportunities and create more scholarships than have ever been created in the history of Australia.
Those scholarships will not just help with tuition fees but help with living expenses. At the end of the day, the biggest barrier to higher education is not your Higher Education Contribution Scheme fees—which are all deferred and do not have to be paid until you are earning above $50,000—but your living expenses. Rural students particularly know these barriers, as do low-SES students.
The package that we are putting forward will put $1 out of every $5 of increase in HECS towards scholarships. Those scholarships will help underprivileged students access university, paying for their living costs so that they can get there, whereas otherwise they may not get there.
I do not know what happened to the Hawke-Keating era of the Labor Party. It seems to have been abandoned. While the member for Kingston raised this particular matter today, you suspect that the people who are actually driving higher education policy are Senator Kim ‘il-Carr’ over in the Senate, Senator Hanson-Young and perhaps Adam Bandt. It is the left of the party these days that dominates Labor’s education policy.
There are still a couple of sensible people on that side of the House. We have mentioned Chris Bowen. We have talked about his book, Hearts & Minds, as the member for Bradfield did. The shadow Treasurer himself supports the HECS system and supports such measures, as does, of course, the shadow Assistant Treasurer, who also supports deregulation of fees. He supports a market based HECS scheme to provide greater opportunities for all.
But, sadly, you can be the shadow Treasurer, you can be the Assistant Treasurer and you can even be the leader and believe in these things, but no longer do you get to run higher education policy within the Labor Party, because that is run by the left. It is run by Kim ‘il-Carr’; it is run by their Green coalition partners Senator Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt. They are the ones who are dominating Labor, who have abandoned the Hawke-Keating legacy.