Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Brendan Nelson, have I got a deal for you

An Open Letter to Education Minister, Brendan Nelson

Dear Dr Nelson,

After reading your repeated public comments about how Australian workers have massively subsidised the tertiary education of a fortunate minority (a situation that will continue even after your planned reforms commence), I have decided to make amends for my own subsidised tertiary education.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne in 1990, my earlier years of university, being pre-HECS, were completely free. This now-outrageous, and completely undeserved privilege has hardened my resolve in this respect.

I therefore hereby irrevocably vow to repay the full cost of the above two degrees – less, of course, the amounts I have already repaid via HECS. I do so on one condition – in order that I might better empathise with the chippies and the boilermakers and the mechanics down the road in Penrith, (who I have so put upon over the years, and with nary a word of thanks from me), I ask that my wages be floor-aligned with average full-time weekly earnings – currently, about $43,000 annually ($859 per week), and that the debt be drawn as a 50% surcharge on my ordinary tax payable, until it is repaid in full.

I await your reply. In case you need to consult with your chippy, boilermaker and mechanic constituents about “What’s in it for them?”, I should point out that my current income, as a sessional academic, is about $10,000 a year. My own estimated cost of making full reparations for my double degree (at a time when staff-student ratios where quite low, I should add), indexed into 2003 dollars, is $75,000. The deal is an attractive, win-win one for everyone, then – Australian workers get reimbursed for the hard-earned money they put up for my education, and I get reimbursed for the time and effort I put into my education, by being accorded the same standard of living as they enjoy.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Watson

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