tip off

A floral tribute to the federal MPs who got a free ride at uni

Christopher Pyne reckons students should send flowers to taxpayers to say thanks for their education. Freelance journalist Sally Whyte discovers there ought to be a lot of flowers coming from Parliament House.

After students took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the deregulation of university fees, Education Minister Christopher Pyne told Alan Jones on 2GB yesterday that they “should be buying a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates and visiting a home near them where they know someone hasn’t been to university, knocking on the front door and saying, ‘thank you very much for paying for my education’”.

The minister was defending the government’s plan to completely deregulate university fees from 2016; Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he can’t guarantee that fees won’t double for many courses.

Perhaps Pyne should head down to the florist as well, considering he gained his bachelor of laws from the University of Adelaide in 1988 for free, a degree that now costs $40,300.

According to a Crikey investigation, most of Tony Abbott’s cabinet should also be thanking the taxpayer for their higher education, completing their degrees between 1974 and 1988, the golden years of free higher education. University fees were abolished by prime minister Gough Whitlam in 1974 in order to increase the number of people getting a tertiary education. Courses had previously been funded by fees or a fixed number of scholarships under the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme.

Prime minister Bob Hawke reintroduced university fees under the Higher Education Contributions Scheme in 1989, meaning that Treasurer Joe Hockey paid for two years of bachelor of arts and laws from the University of Sydney, with two years paid by the taxpayer. The five-year course now costs $7453 a year, meaning Hockey would be up for $37,265 for the full degree.

The HECS system, designed by economist Bruce Chapman, was intended to continue access to higher education without the ballooning costs of free higher education. In the original system, students paid a flat fee of $1800, which could be repaid later through taxes, while the Commonwealth picked up the remainder of the bill. HECS was adjusted by a new Howard government in 1996, with fees rising and a new tiered system introduced to reflect the value of different degrees. Now students contribute 40% of their course costs through HECS, while the government pays the other 60%.

Before the Prime Minister was a Rhodes scholar, he completed a bachelor of economics and laws at the University of Sydney in 1981. If Tony Abbott started now, he’d finish with a HECS debt of $49,550. Like Christopher Pyne, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop completed a bachelor of laws at Adelaide University, graduating in 1979. Attorney-General George Brandis also got a free education, graduating with a bachelor of arts and laws at the University of Queensland, a course that costs current students $35,084.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull paid one year of fees before 1974, graduating with a bachelor of arts and laws from the University of Sydney in 1978. As a current student, his debt would be $29,812 (for four years of a five-year course). Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce paid one year of his bachelor of commerce at the University of New England after HECS was introduced, a course that now costs $10,080 annually.

It’s not just government frontbenchers who should be buying flowers for taxpayers; while the Labor Party cut $900 million from universities in an efficiency dividend last year, many on the opposition frontbench also benefited from a free education. Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten studied for a bachelor of arts and laws at Monash University, followed by a master’s degree of business administration at the University of Melbourne. The double degree at Monash now costs students $41,750, but Shorten studied most of his degree under the HECS system after 1989, graduating in 1992.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Penny Wong started to pay HECS partway through her bachelor of arts and law at the University of Adelaide, owing just one year of the course, worth $10,075. Labor’s higher education spokesman, Senator Kim Carr, graduated from his undergraduate degree in 1977, his diploma of education in 1978 and a master’s degree in arts from the University of Melbourne in 1984, meaning as a current student his debt would be more than $70,000.

Opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese completed a free bachelor of economics at the University of Sydney, a qualification that now leaves students with a debt of $28,326. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen completed his degree after HECS was introduced, as did Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus is one of many parliamentarians with a combined bachelor of arts and laws, graduating from the University of Melbourne without paying any fees. The combined degree is no longer available, with Melbourne Uni students now completing an arts degree followed by the juris doctor, totalling $132,948 for both courses (although for this cost current graduates leave with a higher post-graduate qualification). Opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy also benefited from a free education, studying a bachelor of economics from the Australian National University.

Unlike many of her colleagues in the major parties, Greens leader Christine Milne studied most of her tertiary education before the abolition of fees, completing the honours year of her bachelor of arts in 1974 at the University of Tasmania.

Fewer ALP frontbenchers benefited from Whitlam’s abolition of fees, but this is mainly because the cabinet on the Left side of politics are, on average, younger than their counterparts on the other side of the House. Crikey hopes you’ve all got enough vases for the flowers about to come your way …

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  • 1
    Ian Roberts
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    If it’s true what you’ve written about Pyne’s university education, then he told a bald-faced lie on Q&A last week.

  • 2
    Andrew Greville
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    When Bernard Keane first raised this childish argument last week, I let it slide, but now Sally Whyte has made a feature out of it, I can’t sit still.

    Through circumstances beyond my control, I share a similar demographic profile with the Liberal cabinet. So yes, I got a “free ride” at University. Our age group was fortunate in this regard, without question.

    However we bought our first house without a homeowner’s grant. We raised our children without subsidised childcare. Paid parental leave, if available at all, was for four weeks, and for mothers only. The marginal tax rate was 60%, and the 47% rate kicked in at about $19,000. Family Tax Benefit A and B didn’t exist. Our country was shameful in its neglect of indigenous people - barely any money was spent on “closing the gap”. Disability Insurance? Forget it. Interest rates for our first mortgage were likely between 16% and 21%, and unemployment was double digits.

    This probably sounds like a whinge, but it isn’t meant to be. I am incredibly lucky to have been born here, and to have made the most of my free tertiary education. But surely Bernard and Sally are smart enough to realise that all of the things listed above are paid for out of the same pot of money that heavily subsidises university education today. If you want to make tertiary education cheaper, which ones are you prepared to take back to ensure that my generation’s first mortgage rates remain the high water mark?

  • 3
    Bo Gainsbourg
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I think this article is a bit misleading. The fees that the Libs are proposing to bring in in future are much higher than those quoted, presumably real terms adjusted from the 70’s. It would be more accurate to look at those higher dollar figures they are expecting people to pay. And perhaps as a demonstration of principle they could now offer to pay for the degrees that they got for free that they think others should now pay for. As to Andrew Greville’s comment, a simple tweak to superannuation concessions for the super rich could make universities free again. If we are really that concerned about budget and funding. But this was never about that. Its about shutting out the average person from university and creating a U.S. style 1%-er economy, and its not over yet.

  • 4
    jmendelssohn
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I think you will find that Malcolm Turnbull had a Commonwealth Scholarship, so paid no fees.

  • 5
    Liberstand
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes Sally, it’s ironic. Great article.

  • 6
    ianjohnno
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Bill Shorton has a master’s degree of business administration.
    That begins to explain a few things.

  • 7
    Scott
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Come on Andrew

    No Capital Gains Tax, No Fringe Benefits Tax, No GST…all of which were introduced in 1985 or later.
    Over the years the tax take/GDP has increased from around 22% of GDP during the wonder years of free uni eduction to its present take of around 26%.
    House prices….average 2 times household incomes until the late 80’s when they started their climb to the now 4-5 times. Means smaller loans. Who cares if you have a 16% loan on $50,000…better than a 6% loan on $300,000

    I’m a fan of the uni changes (having paid my HECS upfront as a mature age student, I have increased my earning power quite dramatically) but lets not pretend that the oldies had it easier.

  • 8
    Scott Grant
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm. The neo-liberal mind at work, in all its nonsensical irrationality, with the implication that every individual should pay for anything from which they might derive a benefit. (Major corporations are excluded, of course). As Maggie Thatcher said, “… there is no such thing as society.”.

    If I owe my neighbour flowers for my degree, then perhaps he can return the favour for his pension, or the paved road outside the house, or the F35 fighter jets, or the disability pension for his daughter, or subsidised healthcare. And the mining companies should definitely be giving us all flowers for their diesel subsidies. Then there are the large international software and computer companies who get a virtual free ride at the expense of taxpayers everywhere.

    Perhaps I will send them all a note that I want no flowers, and would they please donate the money to the unemployed who are about to lose their already pitiful income.

  • 9
    jimpintin
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    As someone who paid for most of their tertiary education I think the ’ they got it free, so should we’ argument is weak and immature and should be dropped immediately. Surely we should be strongly pointing out to the Coalition and the public the long term damage to our society and economy of restricting access to tertiary (and any other) education on any grounds other than abilty. Free education and health is possible if we curtailed the ability of the wealthy to massively reduce their taxable income and dropped the obsession with tax cuts. No sign of ALP willingness to do either, too many of them benefit.

  • 10
    Scott Grant
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to mention TAFE. Fee’s there have gone through the roof, recently, as well, although all the commentary I see is about Universities.

  • 11
    Liberstand
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    ( I’m a fan of the uni changes (having paid my HECS upfront as a mature age student )

    Must be nice to have rich parents.

  • 12
    zut alors
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Ian Roberts, as much as it sticks in my craw to give Pyne any credibility didn’t he say he completed one stage of university study at taxpayer expense & then another level for which he paid?

  • 13
    seriously?
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    If Pyne reckons the policy is such a winner why didn’t he tell everyone during the election about it instead of saying education would be untouched? Could’ve picked up a few extra seats.

  • 14
    geomac62
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    zut alors
    Your craw is safe from harm . Pyne clearly stated he got his degree after free uni was finished . He did not elaborate on the part he got for free but gave the impression it was none .

  • 15
    puddleduck
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone in any House of Parliament in Australia have a Bachelors degree in Styling?
    I still can’t get over the fact that this is a recognised course in Australia, that can be studied for three years, and merits a Bachelors.
    What’s the abbreviation - B.Style?
    FFS.

  • 16
    Matthew Willis
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Here’s one for you. The rest of Christopher Pyne’s article goes like this:

    University graduates on ­average earn 75 per cent more than those Australians who don’t attend universities and have a less than 2.8 per cent unemployment rate.”

    Furthermore, there are pretty much no positive externalities accruing to the rest of society from more uni-goers. Even further still, would anyone feel comfortable subsidising the university education of people who come from wealthy families?

  • 17
    geomac62
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    zut alors

    TONY JONES: OK. Now, at the beginning of this show we explained that if people call out the microphones will stay away from them. That’s not the way you get involved in the discussion on this show. People with their hands up, we’ll come to. I want to hear from the other panelists though. Mark Trevorrow.

    MARK TREVORROW: Oh, well, what year did you finish university?

    CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I paid - I paid the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

    MARK TREVORROW: Did you? Did you?

    CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And very happy to do so, because I got a fantastic education and I paid it back through my income once I started earning money.

  • 18
    zut alors
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    geomac62, yes, he was misleading on Q&A but muddied the waters on Radio National on 15 May with this:
    ………
    ALISON CARABINE: You have a university degree. You went to Adelaide University. How much did you pay for your law degree in the late 1980s?

    MINISTER PYNE: Well, if my memory serves me rightly, I didn’t pay anything for my law degree, but I paid for my graduate diploma of legal practice, because I think that was a year - well, I know that was after the HECS was introduced, but I think I may have also paid for my last year of law at Adelaide University. I just can’t remember exactly.

    ALISON CARABINE: You would have paid your HECS fees…

    MINISTER PYNE: Sure.

    ALISON CARABINE: …but you wouldn’t have paid a de-regulated fee set by the university which you are now asking university students to pay…

    MINISTER PYNE: Sure.’
    ……….

    A touch of Downer Syndrome on display ie: ’ I can’t recall, I don’t remember etc…’

  • 19
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    He did leave out a bit on Q&A. I don’t know why he thought no one would check up?

  • 20
    Scott Grant
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Of course, the proper answer to the question of how to get wealthy people to make a fair contribution to the society, from which their wealth is derived, is progressive taxation on income, and removal of all the lurks and perks that allow wealthy people to avoid paying tax. I would like to see a whole lot more amendments made to the tax act, until the printed copy reaches a suitable weight, whereupon it could be dropped from a great height upon tax dodgers.

    Health and education (including primary, secondary, TAFE and uni) should be free.

    I commend to all this article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/22/healthcare-is-not-a-product-no-matter-what-neoliberalism-has-taught-us

  • 21
    Alan
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Some people think that Liberals who went to university during the era of free education ought to be more sympathetic to the idea.

    They are opposed *because* they experienced it.

    Can you imagine how traumatic it must have been for Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey or that strutting popinjay, Christopher Pyne, to sit down in a tutorial and discover that they were next to a working class oick? They have never forgotten the horror of those moments, and they will never forgive the Labor Party for throwing open the universities to people whose fathers were wage labourers.

  • 22
    old greybeard
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Two things are sure, if you are in regional Australia tertiary education just gets harder and harder. The other is that my taxes helped pay for far too many useless bastards to study arts/law degrees. We needed science and engineering and we got Abbott, Hockey and Pyne. No wonder the country is stuffed.

  • 23
    Andrew Greville
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Scott, The implication from the author is that the Liberal Cabinet have got their free education, and are now happily “pulling up the ladder”, so to speak. You correctly point out that there was no capital gains or fringe benefits tax in the early 80s, when the free generation graduated, but these benefits generally don’t accrue to recent graduates, do they? Those taxes were well and truly in by the time I was eligible under either of them.

  • 24
    old greybeard
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t notice Alan’s comment. Spot on. I’m sure they were traumatised, especially at the sandstones. Of course they are not oicks. Replace “o” with “pr” and it’s all good.

  • 25
    old greybeard
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Andrew, the modern Liberal always pulls up the ladder, or at least cuts off the bottom rungs. It is their job to entrench privilege, so that the system of advancement that their money can buy isn’t available to others. That is also why they hated student association fees, though their own kids got the benefits, it made dental services, student advice and counselling cheap. Dear me we can’t have that.

  • 26
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Given Abbotts and Hockey’s dishonesty and incompetence I am betting that teh University of Sydney would rather that they didn’t associate themelves with it. I mean they are hardly a good advertisement for higher education are they?

  • 27
    seriously?
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Mathew Wills - no positive externalities accruing to the rest of society from university educated people ??? I’m astounded you think that society and the economy don’t benefit from higher education. You should be advocating for them all to be shut down then. Who needs doctors, medical researchers, teachers, architects, …………………….

  • 28
    Matthew Willis
    Posted Friday, 23 May 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    seriously?

    Yes, I am serious. I noticed that you didn’t list any positive externalities in your post and just assumed that the mere existence of university graduates make my life better off.

    All those professionals are paid for the services they provide.

  • 29
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    The positive externalities normally claimed for universities is that their graduates disproportionately have better health, higher civic participation and volunteering, and fewer and shorter periods of unemployment. Further, they are said to contribute to increased innovation and productivity of their peers at work. Universities’ research and community service are also cited as important positive externalities.

  • 30
    Rob Watts
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Isn’t there a massive group of HECs owers that leave Oz without ever paying too? Can’t we graph the rise in MBAs with the rise in neoliberalism? The bottom line* is this planet has never had such a population of smart ppl with degrees and PhDs and education sausage factories yet we have never been as irrational and screwed as a collective ie climate? Another white middle class issue?

  • 31
    jimpintin
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Old greybeard perhaps overlooks the fact that ‘useless arts/law graduates’ are most in demand globally because of their analytical and strategic thinking skills. Arts degrees are not about Art - check the university handbooks. A common misconception among many engineering/science people. Science is very important but it doesn’t necessarily produce strategic thinkers for the corporate world. Engineering is very important but (unfortunately) has become a commodity that can be outsourced to low paid engineering PhD’s in India and elsewhere -like accounting. Engineers sit at the top of many Australian and global companies but they are the ones who left pure engineering and added law, and even arts subjects (eg foreign relations) and MBAs to their skill sets.

  • 32
    Matthew Willis
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Gavin:

    The positive externalities normally claimed for universities is that their graduates disproportionately have better health, higher civic participation and volunteering, and fewer and shorter periods of unemployment.”

    Having better health and lower unemployment chances is a benefit that accrues to them not to me.

    Further, they are said to contribute to increased innovation and productivity of their peers at work.”

    You would have to prove that they aren’t fully remunerated for this.

    Universities’ research and community service are also cited as important positive externalities.”

    Fair enough. But that still doesn’t justify subsidising students to such a great extent, specially when most of them don’t do on to do research and accrue massive private benefits.

  • 33
    danger_monkey
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    @Matthew Willis

    Ah, I see, you are trolling, rather than arguing the point.

    Fair enough. But that still doesn’t justify subsidising students to such a great extent, specially when most of them don’t do on to do research and accrue massive private benefits.”

    Last time I checked, Australia has a progressive taxation system (wether it is progressive enough is another arguement), and the more you earn, the more you pay. So that University education is an investment by society into it’s members, with the expectation of a future payoff.

  • 34
    seriously?
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    For your argument to hold Mathew Willis et al, society would be indifferent / no worse off in a net sense if there weren’t any university graduates at all. No benefits will have accrued but nothing will have been spent / consumed by society in the process.

  • 35
    Matthew Willis
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    danger_monkey, the point I am making is that the benefits of university education are overwhelmingly privately accrued. Taxes are not externalities either.

    seriously, I don’t think you have to go that far. Of course I’m glad that there are people who are doctors, lawyers and engineers out there. But these people don’t provide their services for free. People who use health services or lawyers pay for them (either through the tax system or user charges, it’s irrelevant how). As Gavin pointed out before, they have better health and lower unemployment. They also have much higher incomes over their lifetimes.

    So to be more specific: there are no public benefits for which uni graduates are not already compensated for.

  • 36
    michael r james
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Matthew Willis & others who don’t believe tertiary education adds to a country’s economy.

    overwhelmingly privately accrued”

    No, for several reasons.

    First, not if our progressive taxation system is retained. I am also all for for a wealth tax (though based on the French model not many scientists or engineers would even reach the threshold) and a inheritance tax.

    Second, most complex operations in business, government and research (and many services) are simply impossible without highly-trained grads (usually post-grads) running the show. As a research scientist I once ran a group of 12 people, and of course all those had salaries for which I was responsible via grants etc. — seems a pretty big multiplier over just my own salary. In Australia I had a million dollar grant from the US which is the equivalent of actual creation of a million dollars to the Australian economy. That was my modest contribution to our trade balance, but of course you could easily count the entire $16 billion attributable to the education sector that comes from foreign students in Australia. Which happens to be the second largest export after mining.

    Third, and most significant of all is the fact that my sector alone (I will leave others like engineers to argue their case) has added in a literally incalculable value to the modern world.

    Take one development for which an Australian received the Nobel prize: antibiotics. In the 90s when this kind of argument by dummies like Matthew, and other neo-lib pollies like the Thatcherites who were sceptical about supporting academic research, was being broadcast, the Canadian government tried to do a proper forensic audit on the value to their economy of the application of antibiotics. But they gave up because it soon reached barely credible fraction of the entire GDP. (It’s true of course.)

    Another more recent Australian academic biomed research result has already saved huge (and probably becoming incalculable) amounts both in simple monetary terms but also in quality of life terms: Barry Marshall & Robin Warren (Nobel Prize Medicine 2005) found that peptic ulcers (and cancers that arise from chronic ulcers) were caused by a bacterium thus providing a simple inexpensive treatment (those antibiotics again!) displacing life-long expensive drug treatments and of course relieving life-long chronic quality of life impairment.

    Or how about CSIRO’s earning of $430 million from their WiFi patents (did you use WiFi Matthew to post your ignorant comment?) some of which was used to fund their Ngara wireless project.

    Or perhaps the mother of all payoffs, look at the San Francisco Bay Area (Silicon Valley, Palo Alto Research Park etc) where there is probably a trillion dollar economy based on the research that has come out of their universities (Stanford, UC Berkeley etc). And that is not counting the externalities of those industries; eg. Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook etc all enable many other (non-IT) industries to thrive.

    Matthew, you need to take a deep breath and rethink what comes out of your brain. Quite feasibly your own life might be owed to what has come out of basic research labs, and certainly your quality of life does, and almost every minute of your life benefits from it (medicine, internet, wifi, computing, communications etc etc.) Where on earth do you think the modern world comes from?

  • 37
    drsmithy
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    However we bought our first house without a homeowner’s grant. We raised our children without subsidised childcare. Paid parental leave, if available at all, was for four weeks, and for mothers only. The marginal tax rate was 60%, and the 47% rate kicked in at about $19,000. Family Tax Benefit A and B didn’t exist. Our country was shameful in its neglect of indigenous people - barely any money was spent on “closing the gap”. Disability Insurance? Forget it. Interest rates for our first mortgage were likely between 16% and 21%, and unemployment was double digits.

    You forgot the parts where property cost 1/4 (or less) as much in real terms, you drove down tax rates (conveniently) just as you hit peak earnings, you have had numerous other tax evasion strategies like superannuation, negative gearing and CGT concessions disproportionately in your favour, you spent decades mooching off the infrastructure your parents built, and you’ve been selling out your children and grandchildren’s future for more than a decade by pumping a massive real estate bubble, just so you can go holidaying in Europe on the “equity mate” after you retire.

    Interest rates at 15% ? If mortgages were the relative sizes yours were, anyone capable of basic maths would take it in a second.

    Don’t put on this “poor us” rubbish. It doesn’t fly. Baby Boomers and the first bit of Gen X were the most pampered generation in human history and created the catastrophe we’re hurtling towards. It’s about time you started taking some responsibility for it rather than telling your kids to suck it up as they pay for the 500% appreciation on your house you did nothing to earn, along with the pension and healthcare you feel entitled to.

  • 38
    jimpintin
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh drsmithy. A real doctor would be intelligent enough to know you can’t blame a whole generation for what transpires while they are alive. Like all Germans and Japanese at the time and still alive today were to blame for WW2 were they? Try that one on some historians. . Pathetic and ahistorical. Put your anger to good use and try to get yourself elected.

  • 39
    drsmithy
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Put your anger to good use and try to get yourself elected.

    Somehow I don’t think being elected is going to make any difference to people who think the be-all and end-all of hardship is interest rates.

  • 40
    jimpintin
    Posted Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    drsmithy You’re still generalising

  • 41
    drsmithy
    Posted Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    So was the guy doing his “you kids these days don’t know how lucky you are” spiel.

    Coincidence ? Probably not.

  • 42
    Marc Lane
    Posted Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    As a gesture of goodwill the cabinet should each pay back their notional debt plus interest at the official rate to show their bona fides.

  • 43
    Andrew Greville
    Posted Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    drsmithy - sorry but even though I got a free university education, I don’t remember the term for people who can’t argue the issue at hand, so they create false arguments and disagree with them. Whatever it is, you are one of them. Nobody said “you kids don’t know how lucky you are”. You made that up, and then put it into quotation marks. Great work.

    The point that I was making is that the argument that there is something wrong or extraordinarily hypocritical about people who received free tertiary education changing the rules is nonsensical. Taken to its extreme, it would mean that any government expenditure that advantages anyone or any group could never be repealed or altered.

    The reality is that there may well be an argument for cheaper or free tertiary education, but if you resort to that sort of childish accusation, the argument drowns in its own noise.

    You also lose any sense of real timing when you say that (my generation)drove “down tax rates (conveniently) just as you hit peak earnings” (note the use of quotation marks to designate a…um…quote.). My generations peak earnings are still in front of us.

    Or that tax evasion strategies such as superannuation disproportionately favour us. We had been in the workforce almost 15 years before super became compulsory, and more than 20 years before the guarantee reached 9%. CGT - already dealt with. Introduced in 1985, when the generation currently in cabinet had an average working life of 4 years. Hardly likely to have presented a bonanza opportunity.

    Negative gearing, still going, as far as I know. So however old you are you are just as guilty as Tony Abbott (And me) on that.

  • 44
    Bob's Uncle
    Posted Monday, 26 May 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    If only there was some way to ensure that high-income earners who benefited from a Uni education pay their way…

    Oh wait, isn’t that called “progressive income tax”?

    Why punish graduates who may decide to enter the not-for-profit or community sector rather than aiming for the corporate sector?

  • 45
    drsmithy
    Posted Monday, 26 May 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    If only there was some way to ensure that high-income earners who benefited from a Uni education pay their way…

    The changes to HECS have _nothing_ to do with anyone “paying their way”.

    The objective is to reduce class mobility by making top-tier institutions inaccessible to all but the children of the wealthy.

    Because that’s the environment where the next generation of elite cronies mingle and conspire.

    The quality of education will not vary hugely between top- and bottom-tier institutions. But the group of people young adults will spend some of their most formative years with will change massively.

  • 46
    MarilynJS
    Posted Monday, 26 May 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    You forgot the delectable Amanda Vanstone who reckons today that students are selfish and greedy.

  • 47
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 26 May 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    They want to deprive others of the advantage they had.

    It’s not as though the country hasn’t benefitted from that mass “magnanimity” - save for the turn out of a few politicians and such?

  • 48
    drsmithy
    Posted Monday, 26 May 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    sorry but even though I got a free university education, I don’t remember the term for people who can’t argue the issue at hand, so they create false arguments and disagree with them.

    I suspect “straw man argument” is the phrase you’re looking for.

    Similar to the one you were making about how welfare for indigineous people and disability insurance means we can no longer afford to make higher education accessible.

    Nobody said “you kids don’t know how lucky you are”. You made that up, and then put it into quotation marks. Great work.

    I was paraphrasing. Just imagine Dr Evil saying LASER when you read them.

    The point that I was making is that the argument that there is something wrong or extraordinarily hypocritical about people who received free tertiary education changing the rules is nonsensical.

    Your point is wrong. Particularly in the context of how those same people are changing the rules thusly so they don’t have to pony up the taxes that would pay to deliver the same benefits to their children and grandchildren that their parents and grandparents did.

    Not hypocrisy ? It could be a textbook example.

    Taken to its extreme, it would mean that any government expenditure that advantages anyone or any group could never be repealed or altered.

    Let’s talk about the topic at hand, rather than some hypothetical extreme example you may or may not be able to think up.

    The reality is that there may well be an argument for cheaper or free tertiary education, but if you resort to that sort of childish accusation, the argument drowns in its own noise.

    Can you elaborate a bit on how “your predecessors made sacrifices and paid taxes to fund your free (or heavily subsidised) tertiary education, which you have made a motza out of, but now you aren’t prepared to pay taxes to fund your successors’ tertiary education so they can have the same benefits, because you’re selfish and greedy hypocrites” is a “childish argument” ?

    You also lose any sense of real timing when you say that (my generation)drove “down tax rates (conveniently) just as you hit peak earnings” (note the use of quotation marks to designate a…um…quote.). My generations peak earnings are still in front of us.

    The baby boomers started hitting peak earnings (age 45-55) in the mid ’90s.

    Last time the top tax bracket was 60% was 1986. So let’s say you were around 25 the, that would put you as being born in 1960. So you’re basically somewhere between the middle and end of your peak earnings years, and for the last decade or so you’ve been benefitting from relatively low income tax rates (thanks Mr Howard !), generous CGT exemptions, extraordinarily generous tax concessions through superannuation (thanks Mr Costello !) and the run up into one of the biggest property bubbles in history.

    Or that tax evasion strategies such as superannuation disproportionately favour us. We had been in the workforce almost 15 years before super became compulsory, and more than 20 years before the guarantee reached 9%.

    It’s not the compulsory part of super that benefits you, it’s the ability you have to voluntarily dump large amounts of money into it at low tax rates, access it relatively early, and pay no tax on its withdrawal.

    CGT - already dealt with. Introduced in 1985, when the generation currently in cabinet had an average working life of 4 years. Hardly likely to have presented a bonanza opportunity.

    Property prices have gone up by many multiples in real terms over the last few decades and you’re trying to argue that Howard and Costello’s CGT exemptions weren’t a “bonanza” ?

  • 49
    Matthew Willis
    Posted Tuesday, 27 May 2014 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    michael r. james,

    Matthew Willis & others who don’t believe tertiary education adds to a country’s economy.

    I never claimed such a thing. Here is the full quotation:

    So to be more specific: there are no public benefits for which uni graduates are not already compensated.”

    The rest of your post is all about how much research has been conducted by universities and the CSRIO and how that’s led to an improvement in my life. I’m not contesting those facts.

    The most ironic thing about your post was its closing sentence:

    Quite feasibly your own life might be owed to what has come out of basic research labs, and certainly your quality of life does, and almost every minute of your life benefits from it (medicine, internet, wifi, computing, communications etc etc.) Where on earth do you think the modern world comes from?

    All those things you listed are excludable goods, sold on the market and paid for by their end users! Yes Michael, I used Wifi to write my post. I also forked out money for it because of the benefits it provides. All I want is to make the end users of university education pay for the benefits that they receive?

    My point is, and always has been, about the costs associated with teaching, not research.

  • 50
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 27 May 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Furthermore, there are pretty much no positive externalities accruing to the rest of society from more uni-goers.

    Indeed. No benefits to society at all from a higher percentage of better educated citizens. That’s why societies with low levels of education are just as rich, productive, prosperous, socially mobile and equal as societies with high ones.

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