Budget – Interview with Lee Lin Chin, SBS TV

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Budget; higher education; CSIRO; economy; Governor-General
May 12, 2003
Budget – Address to the National Press Club
May 14, 2003

Budget – Interview with Lee Lin Chin, SBS TV


Interview with Lee Lin Chin


Tuesday, 13 May 2003

8.45 pm



Good evening Mr Costello and thank you very much for joining us. This will

be a very popular budget with taxpayers not to mention voters. In the light

of that can I ask you when is the election?


Well the election is due in November of next year. That is three years from

the last election but in the meantime of course this is the second budget of

this term. We have not fully got the first budget enacted but we will be asking

the Senate to pass this budget because it funds important things like defence

and security, it funds drought. It produces a surplus and at the end of the

day an affordable tax cut as well and I think that is a responsible economic

document at a time like this.


But do you concede that this is a vote-winning budget?


Well, that is not in the way in which we have drafted it. We have drafted it

because we think that it is right for the times. We sat down and we funded the

military commitments and drought. We had a surplus – $2.2 billion will be used

to repay debt and $2.4 billion will be returned to tax payers in the form of

tax cuts and I think that is right. If you have retired debt we have now got

Labor’s debt under control then you can share surpluses with tax payers and

that is what we are trying to do in this budget.


The question could be posed why not spend the $2.4 billion tax cut on Medicare

for example.


Well, we are actually increasing spending on Medicare. In the announcement

of the Prime Minister I think two or three weeks ago an extra $900 million in

relation to Medicare and we are increasing Australian Health Care Agreements,

the public funding of hospital, public hospitals. So, we are providing for decent

increases in those areas. But, I think that it is important that we keep our

expenses under control and where we do that, to return money to taxpayers and

that is what we have done in this budget.


In the other area of concern I am assured to a large part of the population

is the area of higher education. In this budget higher education students will

pay up to thirty per cent more in fees. What do you say to suggestions that

you are creating a two tier education system?


Well, we are creating a system where the taxpayer will fund about three quarters

of the student’s course and the student will fund about a quarter. And, in order

to fund that quarter they will be given an interest free loan which they do

not have to start making any repayments on until they earn above $30,000. If

they do not earn above $30,000 they will never repay it. So, I think that it

is a fair distribution of costs between tax payers and the students and I think

that it is a fair funding mechanism for the student to be given that interest

free HECS loan to help them through their course.


You do not think that 30 per cent is quite a substantial rise?


Universities will be given flexibility, for some they will not increase fees

at all, they can cut them if they like, but the maximum they can increase them

is 30 per cent, but they can not increase them for nurses and teachers. Now,

at the end of the day you have got to remember this. If a university is offering

a course which is not worth the money it will not get the students. In fact

we want to actually get a competitive situation where courses that are not valued

by students are not offered, but if there is a course that is worth it, if it

is of such an outstanding educational value that students realise that it is

worth voting for well that is up to the university. It gives them the flexibility

to do that and the money that the university gets, bear this in mind, the money

that the university gets does not go to the Government, it goes to the university.

Why? So it can provide better tuition and a better standard of education for

the student.


Treasurer, thank you.


Great pleasure to be with you, Lee Lin.