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 we know can be crippling for both younger and mature age students, and it’s a win for regional towns looking to recruit skilled staff.”
Mr Fardell said the average HECS debt had grown faster than inflation over the last decade.
“The average debt is now more than $20,000, compared to $12,000 just 10 years ago,” Mr Fardell said.
“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.”
Mr Fardell said regional WA had a lot to offer 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, dearer rent and long commutes in peak-hour traffic,” he said.
“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 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 would not be limited to young people or new graduates.
“I know plenty of people in their 30s and 40s who still have a HECS debt, whether it be historical or new debt they’ve obtained from recent study,” he said.
“Mature aged students willing to move to the bush should be eligible to have their debt abolished as well.”
Mr Fardell said 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 a step further and recognise that all of regional WA is crying out for quality workers,” he said.
“This policy has the potential to transform communities and lives.”