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Sharri, Sky News, 25 May 2023

Sharri Markson: Now, as part of its efforts to push the Australian economy along, the Federal Government had promised student entrepreneur loans, for high achieving postgraduates and it would help them kick start a university incubated business, but the program has hit major hurdles. There are accusations that it was started, it was implemented before it was ready to go, and internal documents indicate that it will burden students with unnecessary debt, but it’s been rolled out anyway. The Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson, has called the scheme a policy disaster, and she joins me now. Sarah, welcome to the program. Why do you say that there are so many problems with this scheme, which on the surface seems like a very good idea?

Senator Henderson: Well Sharri good evening, great to join you. The Startup Year loan scheme is a policy disaster because students around the country are doing these accelerated courses, currently, for nothing. What the Labor government wants to do is roll out a loan scheme, at a time when the indexation on student loans is going to hit 7.1% due to Labor’s sky high inflation, and that will mean imposing a very significant additional debt on students who do these courses, when there’s no understanding as to what they’ll get from them.

These courses are meant to start on the 1st of July. The university has no guidelines, and the universities have no courses prepared. It really is a mess. But what we are most concerned about, there is no safeguards for students, there is no protection of their IP, so many things are wrong with this scheme. But most importantly, this is imposing a full-fee paying loan on students, for courses that generally they can currently do for free, like the UTS Startup Hub, which is doing incredible work in partnership with industry and students. So, it is a policy disaster. That’s why we’ve decided to oppose it, and we hope that we can see common sense prevail.

Sharri Markson: Sarah, you also did a call for documents about this scheme, and there was some indication that even some universities weren’t supportive of it. They said it wasn’t ready to be rolled out, but Labor went ahead anyway. Is that right?

Senator Henderson: Absolutely, so in the initial consultation that Labor ran on the bill, there were many consultation documents received raising the alarm bells, saying, they didn’t know what the value was, this wasn’t going to be able to be delivered by regional universities, the risk to students was very high. We battled Labor, and we actually now have most of those documents. The universities, disappointingly, have muted some of their concerns, but they are still very concerned. They would rather see a pilot before any loan scheme is rolled out. It’s coming into the parliament the next few weeks. So, we really, really hope that we can stop this scheme going ahead.

Sharri Markson: Okay. We’ll keep across that. Now, Sarah, you grilled ABC executives in Senate Estimates yesterday. You raised the issue of social media trolling and pointed out that every time you go on the ABC, you experience this trolling as well. I assume our Sky News viewers do not subject you to the same treatment. But what responsibility do you think the ABC has here, both to its employees, employees like Stan Grant, and its guests? Should it be turning off comments?

Senator Henderson: Well, I quizzed David Anderson, the Editor in Chief, who I think has really dropped the ball. ABC standards are slipping very dramatically, and that’s because the ABC predominantly allows its journalists to freelance on social media, to run commentary, to run opinion, and there are very limited circumstances in which that’s not permitted. That’s not the way it used to work at the ABC. I worked there for nine years; I know. So, standards are slipping, and even at the time yesterday when we were quizzing the ABC about allegations of serious racism, of course stemming from the Stan Grant incident, there were hundreds of comments, including racist comments about Stan Grant, being published by the ABC. So, their social media policy is an absolute disaster. The managing director refuses to fix it and, as a result, the ABC continues to bring itself into disrepute because of the manner in which journalistic standards are declining.

Sharri Markson: All right, Sarah Henderson, thank you very much for joining me live from Canberra.

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