The Nationals WA want to abolish HECS debt for those prepared to live and work in regional WA in a bid to address the growing skills shortage in the bush.
Senate candidate Nick Fardell said his policy would reduce debt for students entering the workforce and present an extra incentive to attract workers to regional communities.
“If you want to work and live in regional WA for a five year period, I want to wipe your entire HECS debt,” Mr Fardell said.
It’s a win for West Australians looking to escape their HECS debt, which can be crippling for both younger and mature age students, and it’s a win for regional towns looking to recruit skilled staff.
The average HECS debt has grown faster than inflation in the last decade. If a person goes along the HECS pathway the average debt is now more than $20,000, compared to $12,000 just 10 years ago.
With stagnant wage growth, a restricted jobs market in the metro area, and a lowering of the HECS repayment threshold to $45,000 this year, the HECS burden will be keenly felt by new graduates in coming years.
Big Nick pledges HECS relief for regional jobseekers
Mr Fardell said regional WA had a lot to offer for young graduates and he expected the policy would be well received.
“If you stay in Perth, you’re looking at a crowded jobs market, losing a chunk of your paycheque each week to paying off your HECS debt, expensive rent and long commutes in peak-hour traffic every day.
“This policy gives graduates an opportunity to do rewarding work in their field, take on new opportunities in regional WA and have their HECS debt wiped clean.
“We also know that people who move to the bush and stay there for more than 12 months are more likely to stay long-term or return to regional WA in the future.”
Mr Fardell said the policy should not be limited to young people or new graduates.
“I know plenty of people in their 30s and 40s who still have HECS debt, either historical debt or new debt they’ve obtained from recent study,” he said.
“They have already given so much back to their regional communities and should have their debt absorbed as well.”
The Nationals’ policy builds on a previous commitment by the Federal Government to waive HECS debts for teachers in remote communities.
“That policy is a good start, but we need to take it that step further and recognise that all of regional WA is crying out for quality workers,” Mr Fardell said.
Find out more about The Nationals Federal Campaign here.
Nats call for student debt relief for all regional jobs seekers (West Regional News, April 9)
HECS debt relief for going bush (6PR, April 11)