In my frequent encounters with student politicians, I only ever hear one response to the question of paying for academics: tax the rich. Well, guess what! That's exactly what HECS does. Graduates pay a modestly higher rate of tax (typically just a few percent) once they start earning around the average income. If their income falls below the threshold - like when they're backpacking across Asia - the repayments stop. And at no penalty since the loan is (in real terms) interest free.
I worry that young people are frightened out of taking up this great deal because of misinformation about "crippling debt" from well-intentioned politicians and activists scoring political points. Running a scare campaign is no way to effect change in public policy.