ALP stands by HECS
By Kathy Newnam
BRISBANE — The ALP is up to its old tricks trying to con students that the introduction of HECS in 1987 did not disadvantage students.
Sheriff Deen, the presidential candidate on the Labor Club's YOU — Your Own Union — ticket at the University of Queensland, addressed the August 29 national day of action on education and implied that without HECS, he and other Aboriginal students would not have been able to attend university. Deen has also claimed that free education is a "utopian idea".
At the student and staff rally on August 7, Howard Guille, Queensland NTEU president, and Meredith Irish, Queensland NUS general secretary, also put forward this argument, which is being used to convince students that education was not free before Labor introduced HECS in 1987. This is a lie.
Education was free before HECS. In the decade of free education, the participation of Aboriginal people in higher education increased by 3000%. Women students' participation increased from 35% to 55%. Students from non-English speaking and working class backgrounds began attending university in greater numbers and many who had previously only studied part time were able to go full time.
HECS has made it more difficult for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Ruth Ratcliffe, Resistance candidate for UQ education vice president, disputed Deen's claim. "If it wasn't for HECS, students wouldn't have such a huge debt to pay back after they finish their courses. This is the real story."
David Bates, the YOU education vice presidential candidate, has also expressed support for HECS.
The argument that students individually benefit from their education and therefore should pay for it is used by governments to justify charging fees. Ratcliffe said, "The benefits to society of a well-educated population are far greater than the individual benefits gained by educated students. Education should be accessible to everyone, paid for by a progressive tax system."
[Kathy Newnam is running for national student affairs officer on the Resistance ticket.]