Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Young people say NO to Howard's agenda!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As of July 1st the Howard Government will hold a majority in both Houses of Parliament, giving the Liberals an unhindered position to implement their neo-liberal agenda to cut social spending on education and welfare, and to attack working people. Due to the very real prospect of a world economic downturn, and in order to increase their profits, Howard is stepping up the interests of multinational corporations, and targeting young people and their future!
By Kylie McGregor, UNITE Co-ordinator Melbourne

The Howard Government is intent on smashing student unions and are set to impose “Voluntary Student Unionism” (VSU). Student unions provide many essential services that the majority of students could not study without – such as childcare, counselling, health, employment and legal services – services which would not be accessible for ordinary students under a ?user-pays? system.

Of course, the attack on student unions ultimately is to silence the political voice of students, so that the Liberals can implement their neo-liberal agenda to fully privatise higher education.

If student unions are destroyed, there will be no protection for students, and the education system will return to the days when only the elite had access to higher education. Brendan Nelson, the Federal Education Minister who brought us tertiary fee increases of up to 35% last year, is looking to complete his plan of transforming universities and TAFEs into a money making ?user pays? system.

This policy extends to public schools that already face a chronic funding crisis, while elite private schools continue to be heavily subsidised. The federal government intends to step this up, from 2005- 2008 they will direct 74% of funding from public to private, while the TAFE system is critically under resourced, indigenous education is in crisis and pre-schools receive no funding at all. Howard?s agenda is to further promote privatisation of schools, TAFE and universities alike, toward a two-tier education system.

Under the Howard government, apprenticeship opportunities for young people have dramatically fallen, resulting in a chronic skills shortage. Plus, completion rates are at an all time low (higher than 40%). Many apprentices are simply unable to live on the poverty wage – at the moment apprentices are barely paid more than the unemployment benefit ? and few can afford the rising costs of fees and equipment. This has led to opportunism on the part of many employers offering ?dodgy traineeships?, where employers pay only a low trainee wage, yet provide no real training or qualification in exchange. (such as in fast food and supermarket chains)

Low-skilled jobs are Howard?s way, forcing young people into low paid casual McJobs. The government is launching massive attacks on work laws (industrial relations system) – taking away protection for all workers so they can reduce working conditions and wages even further – increasing casual jobs, and lowering the minimum wage. Plus, even though unemployment is actually quite high – independent studies show its closer to 12-15%, and even higher for young people; yet, Howard seeks to increase and enforce work for the dole for extended periods.

Howard?s way is to increase funding for military service ? heavily marketing it to young people as an ?opportunity” to learn a trade, or gain a higher education ? while slashing all funding for an equitable education system. Howard?s way, despite a mass opposition to the occupation in Iraq, is to send even more troops. Howard?s way is to follow the world powers ? stepping up nuclear production under the claim that nuclear energy is the only viable option to global warming!

Is this the way forward? The Socialist Party don’t think so!

Join the fight back for a real alternative and a real future! We demand

* Hands off our student unions! No to Voluntary Student Unionism

*For the right to a free quality education for all – opposition to all
privatisation of education, HECS and full fee paying places

*For an end to low paid “no future” traineeships.

*For a genuine living wage for all students, apprentices & trainees : a well funded education system

*No to work for Welfare *No to junior wages ? equal pay for equal work

*A minimum wage of $20 per hour – a genuine living wage for all workers

*For a 35 hour working week without a loss in pay to share out available work? put an end to unemployment and under employment

*For a sustainable future; for sustainable energy ? no to a profit motivated energy industry based on destruction of the environment and war

Join the UNITE rally ? student strike and demo for real jobs and justice
Say No to Howard
June 24th Federation Square Finders St Melbourne 1pm


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