Over 2000 students flocked to the State library of Victoria today to voice their concerns over the changes in university fees. These changes were proposed by the 2014 Federal Budget and are set to come into action by 2016. The policies outlined would give universities the ability to charge students whatever amount they see necessary without the government capping tuition prices.
Another change to student fees in the 2014 budget is that while students wont have to pay their fees upfront, their HECS debt would be adversely affected by the interest rates of the time of repayment. These rates could be as high as 6%! This means, that not only would students have to pay of their debt sooner rather than later, but the financial climate at the time of repayment is an additional factor of the cost.
Recent protest on the 21st of May was run by the National Union of Students, with Sarah Garnham, NUS Education Officer leading the speeches by Jacob Grech (trades hall), Rose Steele (president of Latrobe University’s Student Union), Colin long (NTEU), Adam Bandt (Greens) and Kate Elis (Labor). The speeches ended with Jade Eckhaus burning a copy of the 2014 federal budget in a cooking pot. She is a Melbourne University student responsible for the protest against Sophie Mirabella this year.
Chants and slogans included “no cuts, no fees, no corporate universities” and “no if’s, no but’s, no education cuts”. The marchers held witty signs with slogans such as “Education shouldn’t be a debt sentence”, “the budget smuggler’, “Chris Pyne puts the ‘n’ in ‘cuts’”, “this student movement is just like the climate, just getting warmed up”. And, for the Game of Thrones fans out there, “I prefer Joffery” was one of the highlights.
Sarah Garnham declared that “this is a budget for the 1 per-cent” and that “[we] are going to fight this budget tooth and nail”. While this passionate protest began as a peaceful event it ultimately ended in violence after a sit-in at state parliament was forcefully disbanded by police. This included underage high-school students as young as fifteen.
This protest in Melbourne was one of many held this Wednesday across Australia.
With widespread disapproval of this federal budget from people across the political spectrum (pensioners, students, from high-income earners to people on welfare) it remains to be seen what aspects of the budget will be blocked in the Senate by the opposition, and which aspects will survive the resistance.