Earlier this year, the Government proposed changes to the HECS-HELP system, including a lowered income threshold for making repayments, and a cap on HECS-HELP borrowing. Both of these changes go against the spirit of the HECS system, which is predicated on enabling access to education for all Australians regardless of ability to pay upfront.
These changes were expected to be passed by the Senate this week, meaning they would have come into effect from Sunday. However, this did not happen. The legislation was bumped off the Senate agenda in favour of other legislation of higher priority.
For an explanation of the legislation, please see our briefing paper from earlier in the year (note that since then, a small change has been made to the legislation – the borrowing cap will now replenish upon repayment, rather than being a lifetime limit). In collaboration with the National Union of Students, we commissioned research which found that the borrowing cap will impact over 30,000 Australians in the coming years – you can read or watch a summary of the research.
You may have seen some media reporting earlier in the week that the legislation has already been passed. This reporting is incorrect. As the Senate is now closed for the winter break, this means that the soonest the legislation will be voted upon will be August 13. This gives us more time to lobby senators to oppose the legislation; however, it appears to be almost certain the legislation will pass.
The passage of the legislation depends on the votes of a small number of independent senators. This legislation has been dragging on for months now, but it is crucial to continue applying pressure to the independent senators to let them know that students care about this issue. Your ongoing efforts on opposing the legislation are much needed.
Please see the Bury the Bill campaign page for a list of senators to contact, as well as materials to assist you in doing so, such as a form letter and a petition.