HECS for sportspeople

In one of the many possible budget savings that probably won’t be announced next Tuesday, Andrew Leigh suggests charging elite sportspeople for their Australian Institute of Sport education. This is a rare issue on which I broadly agree with The Australia Institute, which put out a paper (pdf) some years ago callling for income-contingent loans for AIS sportspeople, as Andrew L also proposes today.

Currently Australia’s elite sports education costs about $130 million a year, though I could not quickly see how much of that was directly spent on people enrolled at the AIS. Even if all of it was recovered it would not exactly be a major blow against big government, but worth doing.

Governments have, however, long been wary of this idea. I’m not sure whether this is because they think the negative publicity involved with popular sportspeople criticising them outweighs the relatively small financial benefits the scheme would bring to the government, or whether they were worried about triggering ‘HECS for TAFE’ (assuming that the AIS is a glorified TAFE) controversy. Perhaps a bit of both.

Still, if the punters can be conned into structural reductions in spending to supposedly deal with a cyclical inflation problem, we should take advantage of this political opportunity.