Senate Committee flicks student debt to O’Kane Accord  

The Greens bill to freeze indexation of student loan debt and lift the threshold for repayments is rejected by an upper house committee

The Education and Employment Legislation Committee’s  single recommendation yesterday was that the Senate not pass a bill from NSW Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi.

But while the committee fairly reports the case  made for the bill, one par explains why it was never going to make it to the Senate floor, “the committee is particularly concerned about the un-costed financial implications of the bill which, according to the departments’ evidence, could be in the order of $2 billion, and $9 billion for ongoing revenue effects.”

To which, in part, Greens Senators responded, “student debt is an immediate and growing problem that must be addressed now – people cannot afford another round of brutally high indexation. The government can’t keep pretending that the system is working. They can’t keep sitting on their hands or kicking the can down the road.”

Which is exactly what the committee has done, the road being Accord Avenue. “Discussions around the affordability of the higher education system be continued within the Universities Accord process,” the committee suggests.

The basis for this is that the Department of Education and that of Employment and Workplace Relations suggested that the Accord, and work for a new Commonwealth-state skills agreement are the place, “to consider any immediate relief for students or long-term policy changes, so the implications for the broader higher education system can be considered holistically.”

Certainly the Accord terms of reference, include, “explore funding and contribution arrangements that deliver equity, access, quality and longer-term investments to meet priorities in teaching, research, workforce and infrastructure.”

However it is more than a bit rich to expect the Accord team to address the budget impact of changes of student debt, present and future.

Perhaps Mary O’Kane and her Accord colleagues should brush up on nuclear submarine construction costs, lest they also be asked about funding them.