Anger, disbelief as minister touts GST on private education

Anger, disbelief as minister touts GST on private education

It has brought down mighty governments and polarised entire nations - now the GST may be back to wreak havoc on education.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb (and fellow Liberal MP Dan Tehan) have drawn the ire of voters by controversially suggesting a GST should be applied to the sector amid rising tuition fees.

According to the report, by the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG), the cost of private tuition is set to soar by 25% over the next four years.

While this increase is likely to alarm parents already paying through the nose, it doesn’t end there. The jump in costs will accompany a 23% rise in Catholic school fees and a 10% hike in government school fees respectively.

A Sydney Morning Herald poll asked its readers whether it supported a GST on education.

The answer was a resounding “No” by 80% of the poll’s respondents.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Trade Minister Andrew Robb provided tacit backing to the idea.

"I think there's general agreement that the broader the base, the better, obviously," the Minister said.

“And the lower the personal tax, the better; whether it's the GST or a combination of other broad-based taxes."

In an article by The Guardian titled Paying GST on education would be an unpopular but progressive move, it argued in favour of the move, adding that the Government could generate $3.3b in revenue.

“Last week’s release of the 2013-14 tax expenditures showed, the exemption of education fees from the GST cost the government $3.3bn in revenue,” it stated.

However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott finally broke his silence late last week by saying that he was opposed to the move.

"The GST will not change in this term of Parliament without a Parliamentary consensus," Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB.

However, not everyone is convinced. Fraser MP Andrew Leigh said he believes Abbott is quietly preparing for a policy U-turn.

“On 33 occasions he specifically ruled out changes to the GST,” Leigh rebuked.

“But now Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey appear to be letting their Liberal colleagues lay the groundwork for them to break that promise.”