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Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Fund education not war!

Turnbull’s warped priorities

Education is once again under attack. Last year the federal government announced a $2.1 billion cut to university funding. The government also tried to reduce the threshold for paying off HECS debts, attempting to get people to pay off more of their loans sooner.

At the moment you start paying your HECS debt when you make a yearly salary of $52,000. The government wants to see this lowered to $45,000. This is a change the government proposed in last year’s budget, but they were unable to get it through at that time.

But rather than accepting defeat the government is now looking at other ways to undermine education. Now they are instead proposing a freeze on university funding, a measure that does not require legislation.

The government has argued that the current ‘demand-driven’ system encourages too many dropouts. While dropout rates are an issue, the main problem is the financial burden placed on students. Many drop out as they cannot afford the high costs of books, travel or accommodation near campuses.

While there are huge flaws in the ‘demand-driven’ model, cutting and freezing funding will only make matters worse.

The government is proposing to allocate university funding based on performance targets. While this is supposed to force universities to provide a better-quality education it will more likely see them cut corners by reducing staff and student services.

While the government is hellbent on reducing spending in the education sector, they seem to have billions of dollars to waste on the military, and on handouts for the private weapons industry. In fact, an immense $3.8 billion will be spent to provide finance for shady weapons export deals.

In addition, the government has promised to spend $200 billion on military spending over the next decade! Imagine what could be achieved if this money was directed to something instead of the murderous war machine.

Clearly there is plenty of money in the budget. The government’s cuts are not because the money to fund education does not exist. The government is making a political decision to direct the money we pay via taxes to the weapons industry instead of funding things that are socially useful. Turnbull truly has some warped priorities.

Even more wealth could be captured if the government targeted companies that hoard cash in offshore accounts, or if they pursued the one in five big companies that have not paid tax within the last three years. Billions more could be tapped if we brought key sectors of the economy into public hands.

Adding insult to injury, while cutting funds for the things that we need Turnbull is trying to implement even more company tax cuts. This is a government of the rich for the rich. It needs to be thrown out of office as soon as possible.

Socialists stand opposed to all cuts to education. The money exists to both fund education extensively and make it free. We need a government that instead of making cuts, actually increases taxes on corporations to pay for the services we need.

Doing this would not only mean extra money for education but also for improved health services, housing, public transport and more.

A government that stood for redirecting society’s wealth to the majority of people would be able to secure huge improvements in our living standards. This idea isn’t far-fetched. It’s logical and it’s possible, it’s just not a policy of either of the major parties.

The only way that we will ever get a government that has its priorities right is if we begin the task of building a political alternative to the big business parties. We need a party that stands for putting people’s needs before profit.

As long as the current profit-driven system remains, and parties like the Liberals and Labor dominate, we will face an ongoing struggle for the basics of life. Not even decent education, healthcare or housing can be guaranteed.

This is why alongside fighting this latest round of attacks on education we need to fight for a new party that represents ordinary people and stands for changing the way society is structured.

By Kai Perry