Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill 2019

In my maiden speech, I made a commitment to introduce a private senator’s bill to abolish the student services and amenities fee.

This bill would deliver on that commitment by repealing the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Act 2011, thereby abolishing the compulsory student services and amenities fee (SSAF) and amending the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to abolish the Student Amenities (SA-HELP) loans.

The SSAF is a $303 compulsory tax, levied on over one million university students annually.

The SSAF is one of the few forcibly collected taxes, which is neither administered by the Commonwealth nor subject to thorough government oversight.

But it should be called out for what it really is: a Labor-Greens Trojan Horse on the way back to compulsory student unionism.

It flies in the face of the fundamental principles that we fight for: the liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes.

$303 may not seem like much money to politicians in this building, but it is for students. For example, with $303 a typical university student could buy: two weeks of rent; 505 packets of noodles; 3,060 pens; 161 cans of Red Bull energy drink; 121 stubbies of beer; or 4.7 litres of Bundaberg Rum.

The SSAF is unfair, unpopular, undemocratic, unnecessary, burdensome, politicised and wasteful.

It is unfair because it is levied on all students, regardless of their need, willingness and ability to access the services and activities they are paying for.

It is unpopular because students don’t believe they are getting value for money and they want SSAF either abolished or given a say in the matter.

It is undemocratic because students don’t have a say in how their money is spent.

It is unnecessary because, as student-run organisations in Queensland have shown, you don’t need compulsory student fees to run a successful student association that provides a wide range of services and activities.

It is burdensome because it further increases an already significant burden of student debt.

It is politicised because it continues to provide left-wing student politicians and activists an opportunity to misuse students’ money on political causes and campaigns that most of students don’t support.

It is wasteful because there is a long and ignoble history of compulsory fees being wasted by student politicians who can’t help themselves when given a big bucket of someone else’s money.

If this bill passes, higher education providers will remain free to levy fees for student services and amenities, should they wish to, but the payment of such a fee will no longer be compulsory.

The amendments contained within this bill are straightforward, and allows for any outstanding transitional matters to be dealt with by the relevant Minister.

It is an important reform long overdue. I commend the bill to the Senate.