Thursday, 28 February 2013

In support of Ben Quilty on the free of fees athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport

Australia's great artist, Ben Quilty, has spoken up and out to-day.  Australians are known around the world as being sports mad - and it is not just a bottom up thing.  It also runs from the top down with the government allowing sportsmen and sportswomen to attend the Australian Institute of Sport without incurring a HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) debt.

Ben Quilty is not the first to raise this anomaly - this free gift to sport.  It has been an issue since the introduction of HECS and is part of the fall-out of Australia's poor swim medal performance in the Montreal Olympics of 1976.  Australia felt shamed and the poor showing in the swim medal tally has continued to haunt Australian sport since so reference to 1976 emerges from the shadows with some regularity in Australia.  Out of the ashes of our great medal lack came the Australian Institute of Sport and special support for our athletes.  

The result has been that Australia has been well rewarded for its investment - except the swimming performance at the London Olympics is being questioned thoroughly.  Under the review spotlight, poor behaviour by leading male swimmers has come into view.  Shame for Australia once again - and once again it is members of the swim team. 

Some graduate swimmers have done well financially and established successful post-swimming careers - notable among these has been Ian Thorpe.

So why shouldn't people query the free ride given to AIS athletes - when other tertiary graduates, especially those who deliver great service in important and significant professions, have to pay.

My own view is that tertiary education for all should be free as it was in the Whitlam years - and those who make big dollars further along in their careers should pay through a progressive taxation system which is not afraid to tax high income earners. 

I hope more voices join Ben Quilty in supporting HECS payments for AIS athletes.

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