A society where every person between the age of 16 and 70 is either working or studying is an unrealistic nonsense even in the best of times. Considering the Coalition are trying to tell us that we are facing the worst of times, I fail to see how they hope to achieve this goal. What makes it even more incongruous are their policy decisions which are actively working against this aim.
The budget has ripped $80 billion out of funding for the States for education and health. The Government’s justification for this (read Credlin-prepared spin) is that they don’t run any schools or hospitals. They seem to ignore the fact that citizens pay income tax to the federal government to pay for our schools and hospitals. I would much prefer that revenue to be spent in those areas than in defence.
They have also deregulated University funding and cut the Commonwealth’s contribution. This will have the effect of turning over our most prestigious universities to the wealthy who can afford the fees. Course selection at other universities will narrow. Decisions will be made on the basis of profit rather than benefit to society and certain areas of study will become exclusively the domain of those who can afford it.
I understand that students can choose to go into debt on which they will pay interest. In fact they have extended this privilege to tech courses. Foregoing income for several years and starting working life with a $100,000? debt and no assets would be very daunting for many people.
The government has also backed away from its “unity ticket” on needs based funding for schools by refusing to honour the agreement signed with the States. This move has gutted billions of dollars from education and reneges on an agreement signed in good faith and the commitment made during the election that “on education there is no difference between Labor and the Coalition”.
But it gets worse.
Hundreds of thousands of students in Queensland and New South Wales are expected to lose key opportunities to learn a trade while at school after the Federal Government axed $1 billion in funding for Trade Training Centres. According to estimates by the Opposition, NSW will lose 277 proposed centres and Queensland will lose 123.
AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said students in struggling communities and regional areas would feel the brunt of these changes.
“(The centres) are vital right across Australia but are very important in regional centres where we need to ensure future development, future employability of our students and productivity of our regions. One would have thought this is the time to invest in skills development for their future and for the future productivity of Australia as a whole.”
Senator Kim Carr said Prime Minister Tony Abbott has broken vows made before the election there would be no cuts to education.
“Communities across Australia know how valuable Trades Training Centres in Schools are – they keep our kids in schools and give them the skills they need to get a job. Ripping $1 billion from Trades Training Centres means a generation of students will simply miss out.”
With unemployment rising and cuts to education, I cannot see how we are going to find jobs and courses for everyone. But for those who cannot find work, or who are not able to do a course for whatever reason (feeding their family perhaps?), how will they survive if they only receive income support for 6 months of the year? They are already below the poverty line. Are we forcing young people to stay in abusive homes or to live on the streets and survive by whatever means they can? Nothing has been done to address the affordability of housing. In fact the Coalition stripped $44 million from the capital works of the National Partnership agreement on homelessness – money that was to be spent on building accommodation for the homeless.
What sort of future does this offer to our young people? Has no-one in the Coalition ever had to struggle? Have all of them come from wealthy privileged families who can buy them a unit in the city and a car to run around in and pay for the cleaning lady to come in once a week? They do not understand the despair and fear that some young people feel when they find themselves on their own for whatever reason. Or they become an additional burden on their family who may well be living at subsistence level.
Since the Coalition came to power we have witnessed an unending stream of job losses – manufacturing, mining, public service, Qantas, charities to name a few. The only strategy to combat this is to spend tens of billions building roads that have had no cost-benefit analysis prepared or viability studies done. They are also recruiting almost 3,000 people for the military which adds nothing to productivity or the nation’s wealth.
Add to this the Newman government’s decision to axe $4.5million from programs after Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) funding was cut. The programs, ranging from Green Army work placements helping flood recovery around Goodna to literacy programs, involved 918 participants.
15,000 of our young people will be conscripted into a Green Army which is essentially a workforce that is paid at half the minimum wage. These people were supposed to work with volunteer groups but the budget then slashed funding to the National Landcare Program which will lose $483 million of its funding over five years.
The remaining Landcare money will have to fund several programs new to its area, including cane toad eradication in Western Australia’s Kimberley, $9 million of fishing programs and a strategy to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the $40 million Reef 2050 plan.
It is unclear how, or whether, Landcare groups and the Green Army will work together but there is a whole new industry opening up in being a ‘service provider’ ie you organise the Green Army teams and send them out as free labour for which you will be paid a handsome cut along with being given the money to pay your staff (who get no benefits like superannuation) and to buy the equipment they need. I am sure that will be a very lucrative business. I wonder for whom?
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