Opinion //

It isn’t fare

Nabila Chemaissem on the latest added expense for international students

Nabila Chemaissem on the latest added expense for international students

Two weeks ago, it was announced to those of us in the Student Centre that the small travel concession the government provides international students would vanish. The international student MyMulti, offer-
ing an up to 35 per cent discount for a 90-day fare, would disappear alongside the removal of paper tickets on August 1.

We were instructed to apologise to any international students who asked about concessions, inform them that they were no longer available, and encourage them to seek refunds on any tickets they may have already purchased prior to arriving in Australia.

The immediate problem with this is that information provided on the Transport NSW website runs the risk of confusion. International students searching for information about concessions on the Transport website might, quite understandably, come to the conclusion that they can still purchase 90-day or yearly MyMulti tickets for a discounted price. That is, despite a very visible advertisement indicating that: “From 1 August, Paper Tickets No Longer Accepted”, a simple scroll down will reveal the prices for 90-day travel tickets and instructions for how to purchase them.

The amount that international students pay to attend University within NSW is common knowledge. It’s also common knowledge that without them, our institutions’ funding situation would have real cause to be classed as dire. ‘Built in 1850, Building for 2150’? We won’t be without international students to buy the bricks and mortar for our foundation. This is all ignoring the fact that they pay for student accommoda tion as well and the Student Services Amenities Fee like the rest of us.

The only option from Transport NSW is that international students buy adult Opal cards. From the perspective of a domestic student who lives at home and doesn’t have to worry about the cost of accommodation, food, or university fees, the decision to remove paper tickets seems grossly unfair.

It seems almost ridiculous that the government would choose to eliminate concessions for a group of people that contribute so much financially – among, of course, many other ways –  to institutions which the government is so desperately trying to privatise for budget cutting purposes. The decision to remove international student concessions ignores what University of Sydney Provost Stephen Garton said in 2012, that “not receiving transport concessions, like domestic students, has affected their [international students’] perception of their time here and made them feel less at home”.

Sarah Seunghwa Shin, a fifth year Arts/Law student, said “I assumed I would be given the same concessions as other domestic students, particularly as I used to attend a university in the US that offered concessions as an international student there”.

And she’s one of the lucky ones. Living at home with her parents means that Sarah does not have to pay the “ridiculous rent prices in Sydney, like many other international students”. The government should, first and foremost, be ashamed of itself. 2016 marks the year in which the promise to ‘enhance the attractiveness of NSW as an education destination…by offering travel concessions to international students’, should be realised. Unfortunately, that promise has been wholly overturned.

The least our government could do is provide an alternative, cheaper option than the ridiculous adult Opal card for students that provide so much more than we realise or appreciate to our universities. We have Opal options for adults, domestic students, pensioners, and children. Working towards introducing a discounted Opal for international students would be bureaucratically complex, but would inevitably be a great step in the right direction.