How To Vote: A Rundown of the Three Major Parties’ Policy for Students
Words by Imogen Hindson, Ali Amin and Kian Rafie-Ardestani
Words by Imogen Hindson
Disclaimer: Imogen Hindson is not directly affiliated with the Greens party, rather is representing the parties’ point of view as detailed on the website: www.greens.org.au
REAL ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
Climate change is one of the core debate topics at this election, with the various effects more transparent than ever: severe and ongoing drought, rising sea levels, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, and more intense bushfire seasons. The Australian Greens plan to embrace renewable energy and tackle climate change directly. This would be achieved through the phasing out of coal and a move towards 100% renewable energy (resulting in 180,000 new jobs), providing support for coal workers and surrounding communities during the transition, prioritising clean and affordable public transport, kick-starting the electric vehicle revolution, and ending political donations from mining companies. All of these factors combined could see Australia at the forefront of global climate policy, fulfilling the Paris Agreement targets in strides, while benefiting the everyday Australian by reducing their everyday energy costs (and you know, living on a healthy planet).
FREE UNIVERSITY AND TAFE:
The Greens intend to fund Universities and TAFE in a myriad of ways. Firstly, the Greens intend to make undergraduate and TAFE study free for everyone: no catch, no loophole, just free University. Furthermore, the Greens intend to raise youth allowance by $75/week, bringing it above the current poverty line. Also, you’ll hypothetically be able to earn an extra $100/week before your overall payment is reduced. The Greens emphasise that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice study time to work two jobs and not achieve your goals at University. The final catch? There’d be a 10% raise to University funding to improve teaching and learning conditions, reduce class sizes, and allow you to fully engage in proper research at Uni.
For those of you who are still studying, the Greens intend to raise the HECS help repayment debt to the minimum wage of $52,880 from 2019 onwards, in comparison to the Liberal government’s plan to decrease the repayment threshold to $45,881.
For the University staff reading this, we’ve got a hot perk for you if you vote Greens: The Greens promise to ensure Universities are held accountable for insecure teaching positions (casual, fixed term contracts) by working with staff to encourage higher spending.
ACCESSIBLE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH SERVICES:
One of the focal points of the Greens policy is reinvesting in, and rejuvenating, the current health system. By placing preventative measures at the centre point for the health industry, the Greens intend to reinvest the private health rebate into public health care, implementing team based healthcare for people with chronic conditions, and reinvesting in public hospitals to increase accessibility.
Furthermore, with 1 in 4 young people facing mental illness, the Greens intend to build a better healthcare system that has a strong focus on mental health, decrease the stigma while actively providing young people with the services they need. The Greens intend to achieve this by improving access to government online services, improving services for young people in crisis, increasing funding for mental health research, all while focusing on early intervention and prevention.
The Greens believe that one of Australia’s core values is our willingness to help each other when they need it, and our contributions to our tax system ensure that this support is there when we need it. The Greens intend to increase Newstart by $75/week, which hasn’t been raised since 1994. At only $278/week, the payment is technically below the poverty line. In combination with this goal, the Greens will attempt to bring pack the Parenting Payment and abolish punitive measures such as the cashless welfare card.
Words by Ali Amin
Improved Higher Education Funding
The Liberals have frozen University funding and capped places, locking tens of thousands of students out of getting a degree, as well as gutting research funding and capping the HECS repayment threshold.
The alternative could not be starker. The Labor party has announced their plans to uncap places, reverse the HECS repayment threshold, as well as rebuilding strong public TAFEs. Labor has also committed to establishing a National Commission of Review, which will examine all aspects of Australia’s post-secondary education system. It will examine and make recommendations about how our vocational and higher education systems address the country’s economic and societal needs. This is an essential step in decommodifying and transforming the higher education sector in Australia.
Higher wages, ending workplace exploitation and tax cuts for young people
We have seen our rights in the workplace eroded. The current Liberal Government has overseen record low wages growth, cuts to penalty rates, as well as rampant wage theft in our workplaces.
Labor has committed to reversing the cuts to penalty rates within their first 100 days and will change the laws to make sure they can’t be cut for anyone again. Young workers are concentrated in retail, hospitality and food, which were especially impacted and will be up to $6,000 better off under a Labor Government.
Workers will also need more bargaining power in their workplaces to ensure that they get their fair share in the context of increased productivity and record profits for big business. Labor will increase the minimum wage (which will have flow-on effects on wages), improve bargaining power for Unions and workers, reverse casualisation and crack down on wage theft, with significantly higher penalties and better enforcement.
Labor is also proposing to increase a tax offset for low and middle-income earners, which will mean extra money in your pocket while you’re at University and when you graduate.
At the median undergraduate student income of $21,000 you would receive a $90 tax offset, increasing to $350 for those earning $25,000, which would then increase to a peak offset of $1,080 when you graduate and earn incomes between $48,000 and $90,000. For postgraduate students earning the median HDR and coursework income of $40,300 a year, Labor’s announcement offers a tax cut of $549.
Fighting Student Poverty
Recent data from Universities Australia, the peak body for Australian tertiary institutions, revealed that one in seven students is regularly unable to afford food and other essentials. Students have to pay rent and bills and keep food on the table, including to support their own children, all while juggling paid jobs and study. So many university students are older or have family or carer responsibilities than was previously the case.
Education is meant to come first when you are studying; for students living on the financial edge, that’s simply not possible. That is why Labor has proposed having a root-and-branch review of our government’s payment system on Newstart and like-minded allowances and payments. This will mean an increase to Centrelink payments while you’re studying and indexation that will mean they’ll increase with the cost of living into the future.
The Liberals have also cut thousands of permanent Medicare and Centrelink jobs — and outsourced staff. As a result, services have suffered. Call wait times have blown out, and students are spending hours waiting at Centrelink, instead of concentrating on their studies. A Labor Government will invest in 1,200 new permanent, full-time Medicare and Centrelink staff around the country which will mean better services and wait times.
Words by Kian Rafie-Ardestani
Saturday May 18 will be one of the most important elections in our history. For many students, this election will be the first federal election they can vote in. Here are some of the reasons you should vote Liberal on May 18.
Our economy is finally heading back to surplus following the damage caused by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. The Coalition has restored faith in our economy, meaning there will be more jobs for us as young people. As University students, almost all of us feel anxious that there may not be a job for us at the end of our degree. An oversaturation of graduates in a huge number of fields has led to a significant lack of jobs in an increasingly automated world. Since forming Government in 2013, the Coalition has delivered more than 1.3 million new jobs, including delivering over 100,000 jobs for young people in 2017–18. If you want to continue enjoying the benefits of a stable economy with a proven track record of delivering jobs, vote Liberal on Saturday May 18.
As students, we are constantly thrown curve balls that stress us out to the point where it feels like there is no escape, regardless of whether that stress is caused by university pressures or external factors. The Coalition already has a good track record for tackling youth mental health through the headspace foundation, a terrific organisation established by the Coalition in 2006 that provides support for young people struggling with their mental wellbeing. The Coalition is building on its strong record with mental health through pledging an additional record $503.1 million investment into the largest suicide prevention strategy in our history. The suicide rate in our young people is far too high, accounting for one third of Australian deaths aged 15–24. There is no shame in battling with mental health, and all sides of politics must come together to address this pandemic that affects so many of our generation.
Climate change a very real problem that we must address. However, we must take a pragmatic approach to addressing climate change rather than an extreme and unsustainable approach, particularly with regard to energy. The Coalition will develop a National Electric Vehicle Strategy where a realistic plan will be implemented, rather than an unrealistic forced purchase of an electric vehicle like Labor is proposing. The Coalition will also continue investing in renewable energy in Australia through Snowy 2.0 and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation.
Border security is an incredibly important issue for all Australians. Although border protection doesn’t affect us directly as university students, strong borders are necessary to ensure we continue to thrive as a safe and successful nation. The Coalition has finally fixed the mess Labor made of Australia’s border security. The Coalition effectively put an end to parasitic people smugglers attempting to enter Australia, allowing our humanitarian program to increase from 13,750 in 2013–14 to 18,750 in 2018–19. As the son of a refugee, I can sympathise with all of those who are trying to find a better life in our great country. However, there are correct processes for this, and paying people smugglers to come here illegally is not the right way to go about it.
Vote Liberal on May 18!