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Abbott's Fight Club

I'll fight youse all: the PM's week that was. With Rocco Fazzari and Denis Carnahan and apologies to The Clash.

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I often (only half) joke that my Arts degree was the best nine and half years of my life.

From what I recall it cost me about $2000, a couple of Hawke government administrative fees and half of the first year of HECS.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Treasurer Joe Hockey, along with myself, are part of the last generation of post-Whitlam university students to pay virtually nothing for our university education.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop , attacked by students at the University of Sydney earlier this month.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: Attacked by students at the University of Sydney earlier this month.

That's right, by a fluke of timing we all effectively missed out on paying HECS, the university tuition scheme lauded around the world for its fairness and equity. Nothing up front and repaying a reasonable part of your degree costs through a levy of 4 to 8 per cent extra on your tax, commencing when you reach a certain income (currently $50,000).

The government proposes a raft of changes that will most likely massively increase the debts students incur.

The hypocrisy of Pyne, Hockey and Tony Abbott demanding that university students "pay their fair share" is breathtaking.

Let's assume there is a budgetary crisis – a position disputed as passionately by some as it is promulgated by others – and that this is not just a vigorously wielded, government slashing, ideological scalpel. The question arises where should the cuts come.

And the answer is screamingly obvious. We don't need new taxes, we just need to apply the ones that currently exist more fairly and close some massive loopholes.

When it comes to forgoing potential government revenue by offering some people tax concessions Australia leads the OECD. In fact, we blow most other countries out of the water. Estimates suggest we give back about 8 per cent of our GDP, well over $120 billion, and that the vast bulk of OECD countries concede less than half of this portion.

And who does it benefit? Me – and others like me – who are investing extra income we made courtesy of our free university education.

It's the likes of Pyne and myself, who, come July 1, if we can find a handy $50,000 down the back of the couch can plough it into our superannuation at a tax rate of 15 per cent when as income it would have been taxed at double or triple that amount.

It's Hockey and me who are most likely to own an investment property or two that we can negatively gear to our advantage.

Surely winding back these arrangements is a fairer way to "lift not lean" than increasing the debts of students who already pay an appropriate amount for their degrees which will benefit them, but also all of us. Our scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, our Treasurer and Education Minister, and all but two prime ministers since 1950, have all had the benefit of an Australian university education.

The government has appointed not one, but two working groups to advise on the proposed changes. I sincerely hope they advocate a substantial paring back of the changes. It's only fair.

Adam Spencer holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Sydney.