New welfare reforms face heavy criticism from federal, teacher, and student bodies.
These protestations focus on the deregulation of university fees; the 80 billion dollar cut from health and education; increased interest rates beginning at a lower income threshold; and the necessity of the budget itself.
Stating that “the age of entitlement is over”, Joe Hockey went on to say that “through these one- in-a-generation reforms, the government will help build a sector that ismore diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs”.
Tertiary education students fear that higher interest rates on their HELP debts will represent a serious financial burden, and will deter students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from aspiring to higher education.
When asked about the effect of HELP on students, Dr. David Zyngier- who works as a senior lecture at Monash- says that “the proposed changes to the fee HELP scheme will serve to further deter students from under represented communities from thinking about a University education. He went on to say that“universities belong to the people of Australia, [and] the new budget policies are another step towards privatisation and corporatisation of public assets in line with neo- liberal ideology, further consolidating privilege and class division.”
At a rally on Wednesday the 21st of may attended by thousands according to local figures, Melbourne MP Adam Bandt criticised what he perceived as the hypocrisy of a political generation, who “have had the benefits of free education, [but are] now turning around and ruining it for the rest of us”.
In an article for The Conversation, Melbourne University lecturer Emmaline Bexley says it is important that these potential Masters and PhD students not be dissuaded from study and research “by the regressive nature of the proposed changes to higher education fee arrangements”.
For the first time, fees are going to apply to postgraduate research. Coupled with the effect of compound interest on their undergraduate fees while the postgraduate is studying, a PhD could cost upwards of 30, 000 dollars. Until this point, the majority of these researchers did not pay fees in recognition of their contribution to the country.
Clive Palmer– who famously fell asleep during the budgetary reading- has questioned the necessity of cuts when Australia has “one of the lowest debt levels in the world”; with a GDP percentage of 13.5% in 2013, when the OECD average for advanced economies is 73.5%.
Rohan Farrar, a student at Monash University, seemed sceptical of the positive effect of higher interest rates.
“I am opposed to paying any more than I already have to, and considering that HECS and HELP debts are not directly correlated to average graduate salaries- people might pay a lot for an education which leads generally to low paying jobs- I think a global increase to interest rates of repayment as well as a reduction on the salary level from where repayment starts, is inequitable.”