Hugely overstating what Australia is currently like right now though right?
I appreciate protests; peaceful protests that is.
My Dad used to tell me stories from when he was a University, that the Engineering Department constantly had their funds cropped for the Law and Commerce Department. This was a yearly event, which incurred the wrath of angry engineers every September. What does the wrath of angry engineers look like? Flour and water-bombs. In a way, it was almost like an absent war; their battle was not direct, man-to-man, but in the utilisation of complex weaponry flung across campus, allowing for the belief that Christmas had come early from the soft and fluffy flour painting the University white with snow.
Things have changed since then, and I am lucky to be watching from afar when it comes to the 2014 University Protests. If you’re not up to date with the whole thing, the Centre for Independent Studies has published a magnificent Budget 2014-15 Analysis on their website. I will quote a summary of the whole issue here:
To make the HECS – HELP loan scheme more affordable to the government, future loans will attract a real rate of interest. Specifically, loans will be indexed in line with the 10-year government bond rate, to a maximum of 6%. Because the government will decrease its contribution to teaching costs by an average of 20%, university fees will have to rise by at least that amount just to stay even. Thus, it will cost more for students to attend university.
As I last documented, Australia under a Liberal Government is moving away from the Age of Entitlement. The philosophy of the Liberal Government is to make Australia economically sustainable, which in layman’s speak, is ‘get off your ass and go work’. Now, I have no problem with this, as I have been bred into a hard-working family where the idea of entitlement had been admonished before the concept even arose within the household.
I will keep my views nappy:
- I believe that education is the key to sustainable practice;
- I disagree with the deregulation of university while the nation is in debt;
- I do not believe in violent protests.
Okie doke. So.
I believe that education is the key to sustainable practice.
Preaching about the importance of education is a relatively new practice within the Western world. In Asia, there’s a common saying that ‘knowledge is the key to all doors’. Generally speaking, though times have changed, Asia’s display of prestige is very much through one’s education. In decades past, being able to speak English was a display of the highest tier of education as it meant you could escape Asia’s static economy towards something much more prosperous, such as the US or the UK. It continues today in which the globe is putting emphasis of education in the deliverance of foreign aid, as with knowledge comes understanding of ‘good’ practice (ie. ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for the day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.’)
The same applies to the Western world. We have and never will see the perfect Elysium, where there is no poverty, no war, no hungry, no sickness. Unless you are religious, human reality suggests that this will never occur. What we can do, however, is give everyone the capability to make the best of their opportunities through teaching them the basics in life that will lead them wherever they want to go.
Some people may debate, however, ‘Doing art doesn’t need any mathematics’. True. It may not. However, artists still need to know how to do their taxes and ensure they are not being cheated of their money. They also need to be able to write contracts and communicate about their art. They also need to know about their rights as a person. Without education, they would not be able to function to the best of their first-world advantage. With education, they can teach our children how to be savvy and make the best of their situation.
I disagree with the deregulation of university while the nation is in debt.
Whilst we aren’t in a financial crisis, we have not fully recovered to be a prosperous economy as we were under the Howard years. Though others may agree, and Howard himself has stated, the middle-class was still left to hang-out to dry when it came to the nation’s finances. Whilst they aren’t in poverty, they also are not wealthy, and cannot receive the benefits or must forego of the lower-income levels, but also need to pay taxes of the higher-income earners. For middle-income earners, it’s an ‘either-or’ world.
Whilst our generation does not benefit from Whitlam’s abolition of University fees, there are many positives which came out of the period of time. For example, tertiary education became more accessible to the working class and middle-class, and we saw a surge of ‘white collar’ professionals. As the CIS has highlighted, though it promoted attendance and accessibility, it did not guarantee quality in education. I have been told many a time that lawyers produced during this period of the time were often not adept to the cut-throat field, and were merely admitted ‘because they applied’.
Since 1989, Australia has undertaken the HECS-HELP fee structure. Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) which was developed by economist and lecturer at the Australian National University, Bruce Chapman and championed by Education Minister John Dawkins (see Dawkins Revolution) and introduced during the Hawke Labor Government. After the Whitlam Government could no longer sustain the cost of free education, the HECS was designed to allow students to attend university, but also for the Government to sustain costs of seemingly ‘free’ education.
In 2005/2006, the Commonwealth government deregulated university fees, permitting universities to increase fees by a maximum of 25% and allowed for discount for voluntary repayments of existing HECS debt in reducing it from 15% to 10% at the start of 1 January 2005. We were privileged in 2005-2006 and were capable of doing so because Australia was prospering. We were at our height.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, university enrolments slipped between 1-3% following the GFC in 2007. At this point in time, though HECS existed, the pressure of necessity in working to help the family unit was exacerbated and education took the back seat.
Though some may dispute and say, ‘WHAT DEBT?’, Australia is at risk of a failing credit rating. We can turn to our Mediterranean friend (ie. Greece) or our superpowers (ie. USA) and believe we have no debt but we must confess that we are not as wealthy as we have been. Where in 2005, a price hike for HECS was reasonable, today it is not so much.
We must prioritise our spending. We are not at war, nor should we need to prepare for war. The threat of war is not so apparent today as was in 2001 when 9/11 occurred and yet we have decided to pour money into Defence and further deregulate university fees so that students must pay more. Forgive me if I don’t understand the rationality, but there seems to be little of it.
I do not believe in violent protests.
In comparison to nations like Egypt, Australia has it remarkably snazzy. We still bear social liberties and can be openly in expression of many of them. Someone I went to school with (she’s not a friend, nor is she an acquaintance. She was merely another individual who attended the same institution as me.) outlined that a friend of hers had been physically abused by the police. As a law student and a non-femanist (as I support self-empowerment more than empowerment based upon a label ie. gender), I have become skeptical of any accusations by both parties until the facts are fully explored.
I will admit, my initial bias is always in siding with the authorities as my experience with protesters at Macquarie University have been unnecessarily hostile and even ‘savage’ towards me for not supporting their cause (ie. refusing to sign their ‘Petition to Get Rid of Tony Abbott’ (in which they display their lack of understanding of democracy), or refusing to go to a Socialist Alternative rally in support of illegal immigration (I am careful not to say illegal refugees as I maintain that there are no ‘illegal’ refugees, but ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘refugees) outside UTS). Some have gone so far as to call me ‘scum’ or ‘shit monger’. Judging merely from their actions here, it would not be so virulent of me to assume that they may have been physically abused in retaliation of an attack they initiated.
However, the law student in me doubts this. Though not as frequent as the US, Australia does have a history of police brutality. In the heat of a protest (I cite mob mentality and the heightened potential for violence), when emotions are high and passions are abound, police are at their highest point of awareness. In a split second, they could be shanked, overpowered or stampeded. There are less of them and more of the other. A single spark could cause an explosion; a family could end up with a knock on their door and two sombre officers standing before them. Discretion causes the police to leap and to what some believe is striking first.
Whatever the case, I believe that the right to protest should be reserved if only for a few conditions emplaced upon it. My limited time as a resident of Paris and Thailand have seen me view different protests both of violence and of peace. For a most part, the peace has prevailed, policies changed and agreements reached. In other instances, for nations like Egypt or Syria, opposition to peaceful protests results in violent oppression and the only alternative is to react similarly with militants and rebellions.
For a nation like Australia, there is no need to protest violently. Nor is there the need to physically abuse or intimidate. Though I maintain that some people need to grow a thicker skin (ie. people who believe the accidental touching of a woman by a man constitutes as ‘sexual assault’), there is no need to intimidate, confront or harm another individual in Australia to get your point across.
I maintain that protests, should they occur, should be peaceful and not obstruct the daily operation of the majority unless prior warning is delivered so that citizens can be adequately informed to prepare . If a protest should occur, they should be scheduled, and not cause chaos to the city. In addition, not just protests, but a proposition of an alternative should be given in an organised manner.
I’ll be honest, if I were a young radical, I would protest too, but somehow, nobody remembers that HECS was already raised 25% in 2005. Nobody seems to remember that we are on the verge of losing our triple-A credit rating. Nobody seems to remember that the Liberal Party’s commitment to the Budget is not just for OUR generation, but for the future generation.
I’m no supporter of cutting funds to Universities, especially when we are already subjected to classes of 40 with teachers who can barely speak English who can’t string together a sentence to save our degrees. I appreciate the arts, and being a dancer myself, I appreciate that the Australian Ballet got funding, but I don’t believe that the Ballet is the key to ensuring the continuity of higher education in our nation.
Either way, we will all need to tighten our belts a little, even if it’s just for a while.