Last week the Federal Government presented its 2016 budget, crossing off the checklist before Malcolm Turnbull calls the election for July 2. Whilst not the most exciting budget in recent years, there’s a hell of a lot going on that will affect university students and young people. And some of it is pretty concerning.
Whilst the government has finally ruled out full fee deregulation, this budget outlined cuts amounting to almost $2 billion from higher education. The Liberals are contemplating uncapping fees for some courses, giving “universities flexibility to attract additional revenue” and placing the cost burden on students to make up the funding shortfall. Alongside, the government added cuts of $152.2 million to the Higher Education Participation Program, which funds universities to enrol students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and cuts to the Office of Teaching and Learning which supports scholarships.
This paints a pretty bleak picture for the state of higher education under a federal Liberal government: less funding for universities, higher costs and debts for students, and dismantling the support structures for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The new PaTH Program, aimed at getting under-25’s on employment benefits into the workforce, centres on an internship program of four-12 weeks, with six weeks of intensive pre-employment training. Interns will work for about 20 hours a week and receive $200 on top of their existing welfare payments, whilst businesses will receive generous subsidies for participating in the program.
However there is concern this program could exploit vulnerable young people desperate for work. Under a system that allows employers to pay $4/hour whilst receiving government handouts, with no requirement to hire workers with proper wages after the internship, the potential for exploitation of labour is obvious. Young people already know how hard it is to find secure work and gain experience; exploitation is already rife with unpaid internships and dodgy contracts. What we need is secure work with good conditions and decent pay.
There’s a lot going on in this budget that will affect us. I urge you to read up and have a look at the policies of the Opposition and other parties. When we go to the ballot box on July 2, it’s a chance to shape the future of Australia, and your future as an individual. How much do you think you’re worth?
Women of Colour Officer
The women of colour collective is currently trying to create a constitution and set of regulations in order to allow OBs and members to clearly navigate the collective.
Our fortnightly meeting times have not been attracting very many collective members and so the collective is looking at amending the current fortnightly meeting time of Mondays 4-5pm to another time as dictated by a majority within the collective.
The women of colour collective hopes to run a race and sensitivity workshop in conjunction with other collectives before the end of semester.
We will hopefully begin to engage more women of colour on campus after establishing a constitution and regulations. If you are interested in getting involved with the Women of Colour Collective please email firstname.lastname@example.org or like our facebook page!
April Holcomb, Isabella Brook, Matthew Campbell and Dylan Williams
With the release of the Liberals’ federal budget on May 3, it’s crucial to resist the extreme attacks the government has in sight for students, young workers and the young unemployed.
Firstly, a $2bn cut to higher education funding and the reduction of government contribution, means a 25% direct increase to student fees. Students will be expected to pay their HECS back on an income close to minimum wage. Or, you know, if they die.
Secondly, the right to a liveable income will be completely trashed, and the rights of workers with it. Work-for-the-dole schemes will see young unemployed people working for businesses at a rate of $4 an hour, while the business pockets $1000 from the government for each slave they drive. No right to workers’ compensation means bosses can push you as hard as they like with no concern for injury or death.
On top of this are regressive taxes on tobacco and alcohol, as well as cuts to aged care. Meanwhile, “Mum and Dad” investors with a turnover of $10m a year can enjoy generous tax cuts, and billions saved by millionaires through negative gearing remains untouched.
The Welfare Department completely opposes practically every measure the government is proposing for our education, health, taxation and welfare systems.
The National Union of Students has called a National Day of Action for May 11. Protests remain the most powerful method ordinary people have to influence and drive back the government’s offensive. It’s why they’ve had to keep total deregulation in the top drawer until after the election, because they know student protests are a force to reckon with.
Don’t just wait for the vote on July 2, your voice matters more on Wednesday, May 11.
Rally 1pm at Fisher Library to stop funding cuts, slave labour and a government ruling for the rich.
Enrol to vote: www.aec.gov.au/enrol
Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths
Treasurer Scott Morrison did not mention higher education in his 2016 budget speech – but make no mistake the Liberals remain determined to squeeze students. They have had to walk away from their preferred policy of full fee deregulation, citing “community concern”. We can chalk this up as a victory for large student demonstrations in 2014.
We won the battle, but not the war. Major reforms have simply been delayed by one more year. They are hoping to keep these plans quiet until after the election in July. Our demonstration on May 11 will be crucial to putting a spotlight on the Liberals’ plans and making sure they aren’t re-elected.
The 2016 budget contains $2 billion worth of cuts over the next four years. To achieve these cuts, they have left open the option of a 20 per cent funding cut to undergraduate degrees.
At the same time a “discussion paper” has been released which outlines other “optional” proposals to be implemented from January 2018, including:
• Deregulation for “flagship” courses, which could enroll 20 per cent of students
• Increased student fees to raise students’ contribution from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of cost of degrees
• Lower the income threshold for HECS repayments (eg. from $54,000 to $42,000)
• Collect unpaid HECS from the dead, or tie HECS repayments to household income
The Liberals are determined to claw more money off ordinary students and those who can least afford it. Yet they have handed down a budget with a massive tax cut for big business, down to just 25 per cent.
Funding cuts will encourage further corporatization of the sector as universities slash jobs and courses to make up for lost funding. At the same time, universities will rely more on corporate “donors” and industry partnerships, which distort our education.
Whilst they have dumped full deregulation, they are trying to get a watered-down version through the back door. The discussion paper suggests that perhaps 20 per cent of students could be enrolled in deregulated “flagship” programs – if this goes through, it could mean 1 in 5 students paying skyrocketing fees! The Sydney University Vice Chancellor has already named veterinary studies, medicine, agriculture and music as courses he wants deregulated at USyd.
This could still mean that $100,000 degrees become a reality.
As it stands, there is no crisis. $32 billion has been budgeted for defence spending this year. It costs about $1.2 billion annually to maintain offshore processing centers that detain refugees. Now Turnbull is cutting the corporate tax rate further. Yet the government has ruled out changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax that could save upward of $11 billion.
Spending priorities, as always, are political priorities.
As a social good, university should be free – just as primary and secondary education are. It can be publically funded through higher corporate tax and closing tax loopholes for the rich. When university fees were first introduced, it was just a tiny “administration fee”. Now we can see clearly this was the thin edge of the wedge. We have to stop this trend in its tracks.
The fight we need:
The fight against Abbott’s 2014 budget showed that protesting works. Student rallies, along with “Bust the Budget” demonstrations, and a vigorous campaign to Save Medicare, helped keep public opinion against Tony Abbott – and even got him kicked out of office!
The May 11 rally is our first chance to send a warning signal to the Turnbull government, and show we are prepared for a fight if they are re-elected.
There is every reason to believe we can beat Turnbull. His popularity has been falling. The gloss has come off. People can see he stands for everything Abbott did: refugee cruelty, homophobia, climate inaction, attacking Medicare, union-bashing, and handouts for the rich.
We need to connect these fights and build a united fightback against the Liberals’ agenda. Students can help lead this fight.
Join the National Day of Action, Wednesday May 11, 1pm, Fisher Library, Sydney University.