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Changes to the way in which student debt is indexed announced today are a welcome first step but just a fraction of the reform we need to see in higher education, said ACT Independent Senator David Pocock.

Senator Pocock congratulated Education Minister Jason Clare for announcing the government would implement recommendation 16(d) of the Universities Accord relating to how HELP loans are indexed but urged the government to go further.

He also acknowledged the hundreds of thousands of Australians who had helped drive this change by signing onto a petition led by the Member for Kooyong, Dr Monqiue Ryan and supported by fellow crossbenchers, saying it demonstrated the power of community-backed politics.

“Making this change to indexation now and back-dating it will give some reprieve to millions of students on their loans but only fixes a small part of the problem,” Senator Pocock said.

“Today’s announcement delivers on one of five parts in just one of the 47 recommendations put forward in the Universities Accord.

“We need the government to be bold and deliver the big reforms experts have told them are needed after a year-long review process.

“Changing the rate of Indexation is important but failing to act now on both the timing of indexation and scrapping Job Ready Graduates will see student debt continue to skyrocket.

“Five other key actions have to be taken as an urgent priority in the upcoming federal budget if the government is serious about supporting students and providing real cost-of-living relief.”

Five urgent reforms we need to see in the budget to support students:

  1. Increasing Austudy, ABSTUDY and other working age payments enough to a liveable rate. The second pre-budget report of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee found the rates of these payments “are not enough to live on”.
  2. Changing the timing of HELP loan indexation so it’s not being applied to amounts already repaid.
  3. Scrapping Job Ready Graduates now before even more students accumulate deeply inequitable levels of debt.
  4. Introducing paid placements in this budget so teachers, nurses and other frontline workers can afford to finish their qualification without living in poverty while trying to complete hundreds of unpaid placement hours.
  5. Doing more on housing, including property tax reform and increasing the investment in new social and affordable housing, as well as having a sensible conversation about migration. Anglicare Australia found there’s not a single affordable rental property in Australia for someone on Youth Allowance.

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