Although we have lived under Abbott’s government for the past eight months, we have experienced relatively few substantive policy changes in that time. To our benefit, he has, so far, actualised little of his vision for Australia’s future. Today, with the release of the 2014-15 Federal Budget, that changes. There’s a lot of shit to sift through in Treasurer “Big Joe” Hockey’s debut on the Budget scene, but we’ve focused on what will affect students and young people directly. Rise and shine, fuckers – welcome to the real dawn of Abbott’s Australia.
Education deregulation nation sensation
This is not a drill. From 2016, universities will be able to set their own tuition fees. This is deregulation of the market, and from what we can tell, it is likely to create what the experts term “complete fucking anarchy”. Your degree could cost literally whatever the University wants it to, although we suspect they won’t charge you less. Interestingly, the recent Commission of Audit warned against the dangers of deregulation, pointing to the UK and New Zealand where deregulation caused tuition prices to rise to “excessive levels” as unis rampantly profiteered off their students. Something to look forward to.
In their infinite wisdom, Abbott’s government have also decided to fuck around with the Higher Education Loans Programme (HELP) – the thing that means you don’t have to pay for your degree up front. Previously, your debt would have remained unchanged over the course of its life in real-money terms; it was only adjusted according to inflation. Under Treasurer “Dickhead” Hockey’s budget, however, your debt will be indexed according to a nebulous interest rate that broadly reflects the cost of the Government’s borrowings, which will be capped at 6 percent. #realtalk: this means the Government profit off your debt.
The amount of our debt will also increase under Treasurer “Fuck The Poor” Hockey. Previously we only had to pay back 41 percent of the total cost of our degree, but now, we will see that increase to 61 percent. In real terms, that’s a lot of money.
In fairness, it’s not all bad. The Commonwealth will, for the first time in history, extend the HELP to all higher education programs, including diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degree courses. Course loan fees for vocational education and training will also be abolished. This will make less orthodox higher education paths more accessible and affordable.
Additionally, $1 of every $5 raised under the newly deregulated university system will be mandatorily donated by universities to a Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme. This is being sold as something to assist lower SES and rural and regional access to higher education, although we have to note that it effectively means a 20 percent cut to university earnings – another incentive for universities to set degree prices astronomically high.
Free healthcare in Australia is dead.
Everyone will now have to pay a $7 co-payment to see a GP, where previously bulk-billing was an option. In what can be optimistically framed as a silver lining, healthcare concession cardholders and anyone under 16 will only have to pay for their first ten visits.
If you’re a regular healthcare customer, medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will cost you $5 more than they previously did. If you’re a healthcare concession cardholder you will experience an $0.80 price increase for your meds.
Treasurer “Callous Bastard” Hockey has also seen fit to lower and structurally alter the Medicare safety net. In almost over-simplistic terms (forgive us), this means that the point at which the government starts paying for your healthcare is lower than it used to be. Good, right? Well, there’s a catch. After this point, the government used to pay 100 per cent of all subsequent costs, however, this Budget will see that percentage lowered to 80 per cent. In short: don’t get sick, ok.
These cuts are being made in the name of establishing a Medical Research Future Fund. It’ll be what’s called a “capital protected fund”, which means that only the interest generated from the fund – which will eventually hit $20 billion – will be spent at any one time. In simple terms, this is a pretty great perennial investment in medical research, it’s just a shame that it is being funded by pillaging Medicare.
Work for the proles
Treasurer “Welfare Is For The Weak” Hockey has really outdone himself this time. Say goodbye to welfare as you know it – from 2015, any jobseeker who is not a school or university below 30 years of age will have to “work for the dole”.
Before being eligible for Newstart or Youth Allowance, new jobseekers under 30 will have to participate in six months of job searching. If you’ve been in the workforce before, this won’t be so bad – you’ll be given one month of income support for every year you’ve worked. But if you’re straight out of school or university, you get nothing. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, peasant, and feed my koi carp on the way up.
If you haven’t found a job after the six months, you will be eligible for welfare for the next six months, but on the condition that you participate in at least 25 hours per week of “Work for the Dole activities”. We asked a Treasury official what exactly these activities might be, and we shit you not she said: “Anything from horticulture, to labouring, to painting community buildings”. You could literally have to garden for your welfare payments.
If you still haven’t found a job after 12 months because you’re clearly a moronic parasitic scourge on society, you’ll be kicked off welfare again. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, peasant, and fetch me my yacht on the way up.
If you’re still an unemployed piece of scum after 18 months (shame on you, you unholy, fetid drain on the taxpayer!) the Government will deign to let you back into their exceptionally indecisive arms. But – you guessed it – you only have six months to find a job until you are, once again, kicked off welfare.
This inane, destabilising and demoralising cycle will repeat until you either find a job or turn 30. Yes, this is the real life.
Additionally, the minimum age requirement for Newstart, which pays $510 per fortnight, has been raised from 22 to 25. This particular change will mean a whole lot of young people will be forced to downgrade to Youth Allowance, which pays at best $414 per fortnight.
Those bootstraps are getting mighty frayed, huh.