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Tag Archives: university fees

Callow or shallow?

When Nelson Mandela died last year, Tony Abbott joined many other world leaders in singing his praises.

“The world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader. He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid.”

But Tony didn’t always feel that way.

When Abbott was President of the Students’ Representative Council at Sydney University, he wrote in Honi Soit that Voluntary Student Unionism “would finally stop all students being taxed so the SRC can fund groups such as International Socialists, South African Terrorists, the Spartacists, Lidcombe Health Workers Collective etc. which are quite irrelevant, not to say obnoxious, to student purposes.”

Abbott’s “South African Terrorists” were the members of Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) political party, to whom the SRC had previously been giving money.

Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal Party, and its associated Liberal student groups at universities, supported the Commonwealth campaign to abolish Apartheid. Abbott did not join these efforts. He was President of the University of Sydney Democratic Club, an affiliate organization of B.A. Santamaria’s militantly anti-Communist National Civic Council and Democratic Labor Party.

These organisations actively supported South Africa’s Apartheid government, if not the Apartheid system itself. Abbott wrote and published the club’s bulletin, The Democrat, and was a close friend of Santamaria. The Apartheid government was seen in Western conservative circles as an important bulwark against Afro-Communist tendencies, which the ANC was thought to exhibit.

Anti-Apartheid activity was alive and well in Australia at this time. Many Australians supported fundraising efforts for the ANC, and participated in anti-Apartheid demonstrations throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The racially exclusive Springboks were banned from playing in Australia between 1974 and the end of Apartheid in 1994. In 1981, the Fraser government refused permission for the aircraft carrying the Springboks to a tour of New Zealand to refuel on Australian territory. Abbott, however, accepted a rugby scholarship to tour South Africa in what former Federal Labor Minister Barry Cohen described as a “universally acknowledged… promotional tour of Apartheid”.

Tony isn’t the only Liberal to change his tune since University days.

A few years earlier, a young Malcolm Turnbull, while describing then-PM Gough Whitlam as an arrogant egomaniac, lauded the Labor Party as a “wealth of opinion and class… diverse and less likely than the conservatives to blindly rally behind one great leader.” Menzies’ Liberals, on the other hand, had “warmed the treasury benches” for 23 years with “the steak-fed bottoms of the sons of Toorak and the champions of Double Bay” – an interesting observation as Malcolm grew up in Vaucluse and Double Bay and he and his wife Lucy have lived in the Wentworth electorate all their lives.

In 1984, Christopher Pyne signed up for the Adelaide University Liberal Club and the Young Liberal Party before he even went to his first lecture. Soon enough, he was running both shows. Ruthlessly he purged right-wingers from the executive of the Liberal Club. When half of the 400-strong membership threatened to quit in protest, Pyne cheerfully collected the resignations. He has freely admitted that he campaigned against the reintroduction of university fees purely to win an election, a view he reiterated when interviewed recently saying “Those people who see me as some kind of political warrior are right to think that I would do everything I can to win, so that the Coalition is in government… I’ll do what I need to do to position the Coalition to win elections.”

Sydney University was a very different place by 1987, when Joe Hockey took the reins of the SRC Presidency. The dominant political grouping was the Sydney University Liberal Club, a conglomerate of liberals, soft conservatives, and careerist moderates.

Liberals and Left Action were the two major factions on the SRC, but Hockey was from neither. Indeed, he disparaged the student newspaper, Honi Soit, for their obsession with the ‘return of Liberalism’ and its reluctance to report on student protests.

“One wonders whether Honi Soit is a NEWSpaper or a front for political masturbation,” he wrote in a 1987 Presidential report. “They do not seem to have any shortage of contributors espousing the virtues of Liberalism on campus but when there is student news there is no local coverage.”

Hockey’s policy statement in the 1986 election edition of Honi: “There is no question in my mind that students will never accept fees. I totally oppose any compromise the government may offer.”

His year as SRC President was chiefly spent fighting Labor’s re-introduction of university fees, which had been abolished under Gough Whitlam. But according to a 2012 profile by Bernard Keane, he was “accused of failing to aggressively lead student demonstrations for fear of endangering his Solicitors’ and Barristers’ Admission Board enrolment.”

Hockey’s backers, a ticket called “Varsity”, were decidedly centrist and unaffiliated, declaring they would “fight the burden of factionalism presently hindering the SRC’s effective operation.” In stark contrast to Abbott, Varsity was emphatic: “There should be no further government cuts to university funding.”

Whilst I acknowledge that these were words spoken a long time ago, it appears that, as university students, our current ministers were more endowed with confidence than conviction. As their careers have unfolded we have seen political expediency trump passion with backflips on not only university fees but climate change, paid parental leave, compulsory superannuation, banking regulation, unaccompanied minors being sent offshore, environmental protection – the list of discarded beliefs is long and growing.

Yes, they were young, but one wonders whether their views were those of callow youth or shallow men.


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Kids and Capuchins

While children may lack the cynicism that comes with age, the sophistication that comes with experience, or the confidence that comes from success, they have a more unsullied, innate view of what is right and wrong.

They are resilient creatures who can survive the worst of circumstances if they know they are loved and they have the basic necessities for existence. They want to please, they want to be accepted, they want to do well and have hope for the future, and they want everyone to just get along.

I remember going to watch my children run in their primary school’s cross country. There were a couple of disabled kids competing. As they entered the school for the final stretch to the finish line, long after the other competitors and accompanied by a few helping friends, all the other kids spontaneously formed an honour guard to cheer them home. There were smiles and high fives and a wonderful feeling of pride as these kids crossed the finish line. I looked over at their mothers and they, like many of us, were crying.

These children overcame huge physical and mental barriers to have a go with the encouragement and support of their peers. Their tenacity was commendable and their achievement undeniable.

When I read of 12-year-old Clare Fall’s letter to Tony Abbott regarding the defunding of the Paralympic soccer team, I was again inspired by our children’s sense of justice. This young lady very eloquently expressed her dismay at the decision and forcefully presented a case for its recision.

Sadly, Tony Abbott failed dismally in giving this heartfelt plea the respect it deserved in his generic ‘pat on the head’ form letter response.

Considering he gave $10 million to the Manly Sea Eagles, which just so happen to be in his electorate and he is the number 1 ticket holder, and $5 million to the Murdoch owned Brisbane Broncos, as well as an $882 million tax refund to Rupert because he has good accountants, perhaps those two successful football clubs might see their way clear towards coming up with the $175,000 that the government has stripped from the pararoos. Maybe Cadbury might like to sponsor them out of the $16 million that they were given – it would be a nice gesture considering the profits they make.

I have also been inspired by the fight by the kids of Woodville High to bring back their friends who Scott Morrison has taken from their home and friends and incarcerated, seemingly on a whim as the boys had done nothing wrong.

These young people have mounted a campaign in all forms of media and made representation to anyone who will listen. Even though they are scared and angry and upset, they have spoken with clarity and compassion about this injustice. They have put names and faces to these “illegals” who are just two 16-year-old boys trying to make their way without the help of family. Their friends and teachers and carers have spoken of two diligent young men who were an asset to their community.

And they are getting international recognition of their efforts, even if they are met by stony silence from Mr Morrison.

The Hong Kong Justice Centre reported:

“The spirit, tenacity and capacity for activism shown by young people in the face of adversity never ceases to amaze me and motivate me in my work. I am currently being inspired by a campaign emerging from Australia, #twotoomany, which sees students of Woodville High School, Adelaide, mobilise on and offline to put pressure on their government to release their two Vietnamese refugee school friends from detention.

As well as fervent social media activity, the young activists behind the campaign are collecting signatures for a petition to Scott Morrison, immigration minister; are talking eloquently to the media and speaking passionately on the issue in the South Australian Youth Parliament. It has all the ingredients of a successful and high level political campaign, yet the activists are not seasoned lobbyists or politicians, but high school and university students outraged at what’s happening to their friends and displaying tactical wisdom beyond their years.”

The same article speaks of the Glasgow Girls who were seven high school students at Drumchapel High School in Glasgow.

“When the girls arrived at school one day to find that their fellow pupil, 15-year-old Agnesa Murselaj, a Roma from Kosovo, had been forcibly removed with her family by immigration officers in a dawn raid, her school friends Amal from Somalia, Roza from Kurdistan, Ewelina, a Polish Roma and local Drumchapel teenagers Emma, Jennifer and Toni-Lee, banded together to campaign for her release.

What started as a school petition grew into a significant and targeted human rights campaign, with the eloquent and motivated girls succeeding where adults, NGOs and politicians had failed, lobbying the Scottish Government, the UK Home Office, capturing the imagination of the media and the support of their local community.”

Our students are also at the forefront of the fight for an affordable education, protecting the benefits that their parents enjoyed for future generations. In response, Coalition MPs have stopped giving lectures at universities.

Our young people are leading the way in the fight for the disabled, asylum seekers, equal opportunity to an affordable education, and they also do much of the campaigning to save the environment. It seems to me that our children could teach this ‘adult’ government a lot about what is truly important.

Monkeys could also give them a hint what might happen if they continue down this path of cruelty, injustice, and inequity.



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My kids are ok, yours can go beg.

When I hear Joe Hockey say, with trembling lip, that he refuses to saddle his children with the nation’s debt, my hypocrisy radar maxes out.

For starters, Joe Hockey’s children will never have to struggle. His wife is a very wealthy woman and they have substantial investments.

Secondly, this talk of our children being saddled with our debt is an obvious advertising strategy that the Coalition has adopted. Whenever children are mentioned we get protective so it is a deliberate attempt to play on the heartstrings of families.

The trouble is that this statement bears no scrutiny.

If we are really concerned about our children we would be taking urgent action on climate change. Putting that off for our kids to have to deal with sometime in the future is criminal neglect.

We would also be striving to make our society an even better one than the one we inherited. We grew up with free education and universal health care. We should not be going backwards in these most crucial areas. Will our contribution to our children’s future be to say sorry, you may not enjoy the benefits that we did?

We fought for workplace entitlements like minimum wages and penalty rates. Are we to say to our kids that your labour is worth less?

We have told our young people that they must “earn or learn”. I am sure that every kid, and every family, would prefer that situation, but all I see is another three word slogan. There is no plan for jobs. Rather than increasing apprenticeships, they are closing trade training centres and increasing 457 visas. They are making university education unaffordable – their justification being that no-one has to pay up front. So apparently it is alright to saddle our children with huge personal debt, just as long as Tony and Joe can say look, no deficit.

With no old school tie network of daddy’s friends to give you a job, it can be very hard for young people with no experience to enter the workforce. The soul destroying exercise of applying for countless jobs and being rejected every time can be heartbreaking. Is it any wonder that some just give up looking or turn to substance abuse as their sense of self worth takes a hammering?

What is to become of these kids as we cut off any support to them for 6 months of the year? Why are we abandoning them when they are just starting out on life’s road and need our help most?

We have evolved into a nation where someone’s worth is measured by their wealth, where there are no excuses tolerated. If you aren’t wealthy you just aren’t trying. What chance do our kids have to enter this merry-go-round?

A national snapshot of rental affordability in Australia has found there are minuscule and in some cases, zero, levels of affordable housing for people on low incomes, with welfare advocates saying some people will be forced to go without food to afford their accommodation.

The report, prepared by Anglicare Australia, found single Australians on government payments are “seriously disadvantaged” in the housing market, with less than 1 per cent of properties examined deemed suitable.

Single people with no children living on the minimum wage were slightly better off, with 4 per cent of listed properties found suitable, according to the study.

The study defined a “suitable” rental as one that took up less than 30 per cent of the household’s income.

It also found that couples with two children on the minimum wage had access to 12 per cent of properties surveyed, while just 1.4 per cent of properties were suitable for couples with two children on Newstart.

On the snapshot day, just 3.6 per cent of properties were found suitable for age pensioners.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the lack of affordable housing damaged the lives of millions of ordinary Australians.

“Limited supply does more than just drive up the price of housing. It forces those on lower incomes to spend more on rent than they can afford; compels them to forgo food and other necessities and drives them further away from social and economic participation.”

A coalition of peak housing bodies – including Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Federation of Australia called on Kevin Andrews to make affordable housing a priority. His response was that it is a state issue, and the federal government was “encouraging and supporting” states to streamline their planning and development processes, and review taxes and charges levied at home construction and purchases.

In other words, he couldn’t give a damn that his government’s negative gearing policy has made it impossible for many young people to enter the housing market.

A quarter of Australian properties are being bought for investment rather than to live in.

Over the last four years the number of investment property loans in Australia has grown by 37% compared to an increase of only 4% in the number of owner occupied loans, new data from Roy Morgan Research shows.

The growth in investment property loans over the last four years has come predominantly from the 35 to 64 age groups which account for 78% of the increase.

The study, which surveyed 45,455 Australians, showed while the proportion of over-50’s with an owner-occupied home loan has increased, the proportion of under-35’s with owner-occupied home loans decreased.

Roy Morgan communications director Norman Morris believes government policy is having an impact on loan types.

“Younger Australians may continue to find it difficult to enter the property market either for investment or owner-occupied because for both types they are competing with more cashed-up older property buyers.”

There are currently 105,237 people in Australia who are homeless. That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people in Australia have nowhere to sleep. While Malcolm Turnbull joins the CEO sleepout in his comfortable warm swag, his government cut $44 million from funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. This money was to be spent on capital works building shelters for homeless people and providing affordable housing for women and children.

There has been an upsurge of photos of Coalition MPs with charity groups with politicians exhorting us to donate more. Someone needs to remind this government that the money they are spending is ours and I would much prefer to be looking after the vulnerable in our society and around the world than subsidising corporate greed and supporting armaments manufacturers.


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Would you buy a used car from this man?



The budget has been handed down and the salesmen have hit the road peddling their plan. The only trouble is they don’t seem to know what they are selling.

Tony Abbott told Melbourne radio listeners an average person would only have to pay the $7 GP fee ten times and then they would be bulk billed.

In fact the government has put no limit on the number of times an ordinary worker will pay the $7 charge, however, there is a ten visit safety net just for pensioners and children.

The Australian Medical Association accused Treasurer Joe Hockey of also getting it wrong when he says the chronically ill won’t be hit by the $7 GP fee. AMA spokesman Dr Brian Morton said “He either doesn’t understand or is misusing the statistic or is lying.”

LNP backbencher Steve Ciobo also told ABC radio listeners ‘if they have a chronic disease they are exempt from making the co-payment”.

While it is true that Medicare’s chronic disease management item will be exempt from the $7 GP fee, this is only for one doctor’s visit a year where the GP plans the patient’s care for their chronic illnesses. All further visits, treatments and tests will attract the co-payment.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hockey said yesterday “his comments stand”.

When asked whether the government would be introducing new chronic disease treatment items exempt from the $7 charge she said “the legislation was still being drafted…I can’t give any detail”.

So even though the details haven’t been finalised, this woman is sure Hockey is right even though his own budget papers and the AMA say otherwise. These people don’t like criticism and truth is irrelevant. Look what happens when Andrew Robb tried to tell the truth after a previous budget reply – his staffer nearly had apoplexy trying to shut him up.

And then we have the debacle over the deregulation of uni fees.

Mr Abbott told ABC radio that only students who start studying in 2016 would face potentially higher fees when universities can charge what they like. But the budget papers clearly state that anyone who enrols after May 14 will face deregulated fees in 2016. Only those who were already studying on budget day would continue to have their fees capped – and only if they finish their studies by 2020.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne reiterated this in a separate ABC radio interview after Mr Abbott’s comments. A mother asked him whether her daughter, already at university, would have to pay more.

“If that student stays in the course that she’s doing, she’ll continue under the rules that she started. If she changes course, then quite rightly she will face the new measures.”

A spokesman for Mr Pyne said the prime minister “may not have been as clear as he could have been”.

National Union of Students president Deanna Taylor wasn’t surprised by the confusion at high levels.

“I don’t think the government really put a great deal of thought into their policy,” she told AAP, saying it appeared to be very ideologically driven. “They’re trying to make us sound like spoiled little brats who don’t know how good we’ve got it. They have a very clear agenda,” she said.

Christopher Pyne is still selling his cuts to education as an increase in funding. Alan Jones, while interviewing him on Wednesday, was astounded that despite the education minister’s “brilliant” advocacy skills the “blockheads” running state governments could not understand that the allegation of an $80bn cut was totally wrong. In fact, Jones said, “there hasn’t been a more monstrous lie perpetrated since Julia Gillard said there’d be no carbon tax”.

Pyne somehow neglected to refer Jones to page 7 of the government’s glossy budget overview which clearly states that the government is changing indexation of state grants and “removing funding guarantees for public hospitals. These measures will achieve cumulative savings of over $80bn by 20024-25.”

David Gonski made an impassioned plea last night for the government to reconsider education funding from 2017.

Even the IPA are sick of the lies saying the party which was elected promising to reduce the size of government and reduce taxes, will preside over large expenditure growth and is hiking, not axing, tax. The following is an excerpt from Chris Berg’s article about the budget.

“For all the fire and brimstone that accompanied last week’s commentary on the budget, the bottom line is simple: under the Coalition, government spending is going up, not down.

This is the long-term significance of Joe Hockey’s first budget.

A modest 1.7 per cent real reduction in expenditure next financial year will be more than offset by 0.4 per cent growth the year after, 2.1 per cent growth the year after that, and 2.6 per cent growth in the 2017-18 financial year (the end of the Treasury’s forward projections).

And tax? Well, while this year the government will collect $363 billion, by 2017-18 it plans to collect $467 billion. That’s a jump in the tax take from 23 per cent of GDP to 24.9 per cent.

The most controversial policies (like the “learn or earn” welfare changes, the increase in the pension age, and the university reforms) sound like classic austerity measures but in truth don’t alter the fiscal equation all that much. They’re social reforms being smuggled in under the cover of a budgetary crisis.

And most of the big spending cuts to health and education have been punted far into the future – beyond the next election, and many out past the Treasury’s forward estimates.

The budget is also full of policies that superficially look like aggressive cost reductions but are in fact new spending.

For instance, the $7 GP co-payment is, astonishingly, being poured into a huge new medical research fund. It will apparently be the biggest in the world.

This is a bizarre decision. The policy case for a co-payment is that introducing price signals will give patients a financial stake in their healthcare choices. But using that money to fund an entirely new government program makes the $7 charge look less like a co-payment and more like a research tax.

Likewise, the reindexation of the fuel excise isn’t to fix the budget emergency, but for new road projects. This is so Tony Abbott can live up to his self-applied “infrastructure prime minister” nickname.

Abbott said in August, 2013 that “the only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party”. It’s worrying the Coalition now pretends no such commitment was made.

In opposition Coalition spruikers said Abbott offered two things: the integrity Julia Gillard lacked, and the fiscal discipline Kevin Rudd lacked. After this budget, what’s left?

Abbott is no Gough Whitlam-of-the-right. He has no plan to redefine the relationship between state and citizen, despite his stirring oratory from opposition.

Nor, contrary to Joe Hockey’s assertions, has the age of entitlement come to an end. The paid parental leave scheme puts a lie to that little fantasy.

Governments think election to election. But Australia’s fiscal problem is measured in decades, not electoral cycles.”

It is hard to know whether the government just didn’t read their own document or whether they are deliberately trying to mislead us. A quick look at the Prime Minister’s page suggests the latter.

“Over six years, Labor ran up a $667 billion debt on the nation’s credit card. Every single month this debt is costing us a billion dollars just to cover the interest bill.”

His own budget papers show this to be a lie.

Total CGS on issue as at May 8 2014 $319 billion.

Net debt in 2014‑15 is estimated to be $226.4 billion.

Net interest expense in 2013-14 $10.952 billion

As an employer, I expect my staff to know what they are talking about and they are required to undergo ongoing education to keep up with current developments. If they tried to sell products they knew nothing about, or lied to customers to make a sale, they would be receiving their notice.

Tony, I am hereby providing you with notice. Should you choose to leave before your period of notice expires, the nation will be eternally grateful.