Greens pledge free education for Wollongong uni and TAFE students

TIME TO END DEBT SENTENCE: Greens federal candidate for Cunningham, Rowan Huxtable and state candidate for Wollongong, Benjamin Arcioni flank Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi. Picture: Robert Peet.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi dropped by Wollongong on Monday to sell the party’s plans to offer free undergraduate university degrees and TAFE qualifications as part of a five-point higher education plan it says will “transform” Australia.

Senator Faruqi wasn’t around the last time education was free but sits next to many politicians in parliament who “did get the benefit of free education to progress their careers.”

“Free education is not a new idea but it is an idea that is needed, especially because we are going to see a huge change in how we work, in how we live, in how automation is taking hold,” she said.

“We will need people to be re-trained, re-educated and re-skilled and this allows for that opportunity and it allows our nation to be an innovative and creative nation.”

It was the Whitlam Labor Government which first abolished university fees on January 1, 1974.

But 15 years later Labor established HECS, meaning students would pay tuition fees but only when earning a decent wage.

The Greens’ latest proposal unveiled ahead of the 2019 election also includes major funding increases for tertiary institutions, greater job security for university staff, a higher income threshold for student debt repayments, and boosts to student welfare payments.

“It’s time to end the debt sentence,” Sen Faruqi said.

“Young people are graduating from university and TAFE with crushing debts that take almost a decade to pay off. Under the Greens plan, over 1.3 million Australians will be studying fee free and debt-free in TAFE and universities by 2023.

“We have universal primary and secondary education. Free public higher education is the missing piece of the puzzle.

“No one should graduate with a decade of debt ahead of them. Australians have seen the benefits of free education, and we can have them again.”

Costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office reveal the Greens’ higher education package would cost about $18 billion over four years.

Benjamin Arcioni, Greens state candidate for Wollongong said fossil fuel extraction companies use tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share for exporting our natural resources.

“We could fund free university and TAFE education by closing those tax loopholes,” he said.

“We aren’t getting as much in royalties from gas extraction as other nations, even though we are producing more gas. Making those companies pay their fair share would let us invest in our future by providing free education.”

Greens federal candidate for Cunningham, Rowan Huxtable added reducing the diesel rebate for mining and gas production would provide additional government revenue without additional personal tax.

“We want to use this revenue source to better fund public education,” he said.

“It would also provide a financial incentive to miners to replace diesel power with renewable power and energy saving.

“This would drive technological innovation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – which we urgently need to do.”

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