Below is the text from a leaflet produced by Socialist Party students. It is being distributed at upcoming rallies against education cuts and on university campuses.
For free education & no student debt!
The government is planning to slash university funding by 20% and further deregulate student fees. At the same time, they are expected to lower the repayment threshold for HECS to those earning as little as $42,000 per year. On top of growing housing and rent stress, this will only add to the burden young people face entering the workforce.
Universities are prompted to raise as much money as possible from overcharging students, slashing staff, and competing for private grants. With the deregulation of fees, they will simply raise their fees to pad out their bottom line.
Currently the federal HECS program – set up by the ALP in 1989 to end free education – runs to $1.7 billion per year. With deregulation a recent report projects it will balloon to over $11 billion per year by 2026. In ten years, student loans are expected to account for 18.3% of national debt, up from 4.8%. Part of this represents debts that may never be repaid. The debt created is totally unnecessary!
Higher education should be fully funded by the government, with no need to burden students with debt or cut staff. There is plenty of wealth in society with which to do this: 1 in 3 major companies paid no tax last financial year!
How can we fight the cuts?
For the student movement to win lasting change, it needs to fight for free, quality education as a basic right, not a commodity.
The Liberals and Labor both support cutting higher education funding. Last time they were in power, the Labor Party resolved to cut more than $4 billion in funding from universities, and they turned the Student Start-Up Scholarship into a loan, to add to student debt.
With both major parties supporting higher education cuts and raising student debt levels, hoping for a change of government is not enough. A militant campaign of escalating strikes and rallies by staff and students could force the government to drop these proposals, but it must aim to go much further.
Instead of resigning ourselves to just fighting back attacks, we need a student movement that mobilises to win back free education!
Fight for an alternative – education is not a commodity!
The policies of both the major parties are driven by the needs of private profit. They both aim to reduce public spending as much as possible, while lowering taxes on the rich and on major companies. We need to fight for free, high-quality education and adequate welfare for all those who choose to study.
Education should be a basic human right, and not a commodity that is bought and sold.
As long as capitalism remains, there will always be pressure to turn education into a commodity. Capitalist politicians and big business will always push to wind back all the gains won by students and workers in the past. The only way to defend against this is to fight for a socialist society based on democratic public ownership of the biggest parts of the economy, capable of securing the interests of people before profit.
The Socialist Party demands:
• Free, quality education for all from childcare to university
• Write off all HECS-HELP debt and boost funding to public education by closing tax loopholes and raising corporate taxation
• Income support for students that covers the real cost of living, and public investment in affordable student housing
• For a fighting student movement that links up with other social movements to build an alternative to the politics of the major parties
• For a socialist society that puts people before profit!
If you agree, contact the Socialist Party – text ‘Join SP’ to 0432 447 036.