May 2, 2017

Earning, learning, living — young Australians cop it from this government

No matter what they do, young Australians are targeted by this government, which knows it can attack them with impunity in next week's federal budget.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Serious question: what, exactly, motivates this government’s passionate loathing of young people?

The government’s new $2.8 billion cuts to higher education funding, a mix of higher upfront fees for students, harsher loan repayment requirements and cuts to university funding, have been downplayed by some in the media. A “steady-as-you-go package” one commentator called it, contrasting it positively with the previous reform package sprung on the sector by Christopher Pyne, that would have saved $4.2 billion; another journalist tweeted that average students would only pay $8 a week more in repayments (just a couple of soy lattes, right?). There’ll be no $100,000 degrees; the most expensive is a medical degree at a mere $75,000. Remarkable how much better a draconian package of cuts and fee rises sounds when compared to the original ambit claim. 

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17 thoughts on “Earning, learning, living — young Australians cop it from this government

  1. Wayne Robinson

    I got an email from my superannuation fund this morning noting that I’ll be affected by the superannuation changes applying from July 1. Not much of a problem having more than $1.6 million.

    I have two investment residential properties, and I’m not worried if the property values fall if the government does something about housing affordability.

    But the Coalition’s disdain for doing anything about AGW is a real deal breaker.

    Malcolm Turnbull has been a real disappointment.

  2. Bob's Uncle

    Said it before and I’ll whinge again – it’s only part of the story to characterise this as an attack on “the youth”. More accurate to describe this as an attack on opportunity and class mobility. This is about knocking the ladder away after you’ve climbed it.

    The “youth” whose parents can afford to prepay education and hand them the keys to their first investment property won’t be struggling as a result of these changes. In fact, they’ll increase their advantage over peers who have to work their way through Uni and start their adult life saddled with a huge HECS debt and the prospect of spending 65% of their take-home pay on a mortgage.

    Don’t make this about young v old. It’s just the same old class warfare.

    1. Will

      Absolutely true, Bobs. It’s straight-up class warfare. The reason it looks like an assault on the young is simply because social democracies traditionally subsidise people when they are young and poor, and then tax them increasingly as their incomes rises and they grow wealthier with age. Like the 2014 budget before it, but without the political suicide note attached, the 2017 budget will just be another upper class effort to dismantle our social democracy. The sad fact is that the wealthy have decided they simply don’t want to pay very much tax anymore, so social democracy just has to go – and the young and poor naturally cop it first. (Of course, there’s always a bit of red meat thrown in for the Liberal party base and business backers, hence the climate denialism/coal evangelism, for which everyone will cop it later, but that’s a sideshow to the main game.) The really appalling thing is that Labor won’t call out this class warfare, but will run with these silly ‘war on youth’ type tropes. The ALP gave up fighting the real war decades ago, which is why the right can bare stop themselves running wild and wrecking the joint whenever they get into government. For a glimpse of our future, I fear we have to look at Trump’s America.

    2. jmendelssohn

      Definitely right – but it’s an acceleration of a trend that started under the Howard Government and was only temporarily stopped in its tracks under Rudd. I was the first member of my immediate family to enrol in university on a Commonwealth Scholarship that paid me a modest allowance (better in real terms than today’s Austudy) and enabled me to graduate with honours and no debt. When I first taught I often saw students with backgrounds similar to mine – crashing through the class barriers – but for the last two decades they have become increasingly rare. Too many students who are not well-off give up or under-achieve because they are working “part-time” (up to 40 hours a week) as well as trying to study.
      We need a national system of full scholarships with proper means-tested allowances to encourage talent.

    3. Draco Houston

      Hear bloody hear.

    4. Duncan Gilbey

      What Bob’s Uncle said +1

    5. Richard King

      Well, yes and no Bob.
      Even if you don’t think it makes sense to treat youth as a separate category, it’s clear that many young people are evolving a set of political priorities quite different from older voters at the moment (note the big chunks of the youth vote that have gone to Melenchon, Corbyn and Sanders, especially Sanders), and I don’t think it’s difficult to understand why: slow growth, stagnating wages, debt, environmental catastrophe and the next big wave of automation will affect them more than anyone, and to a greater degree. It’s a tautology to say that their interests overlap (or intersect) with class etc. Women’s interests overlap in that way, too, but that’s not to say that certain policies don’t affect them disproportionately, or that the history of women’s liberation can be neatly subsumed into a class analysis. BK’s line about ‘loathing’ may be overstated, but I think he’s right to point out the criminal indifference of this government to the interests of younger voters.

  3. Lorraine Stansfield

    I think about all those bright young people who are missing out on higher education due to the severity of costs. Bright young people whose brains could in some cases revolutionise this country. Shame on this government who are relentless in their pursuit of greed, greed and more greed.

  4. Draco Houston

    I know generation theory was big when you Xers were young, but this Millenial is scratching his head wondering how this is an attack on the young, as such.

    For starters, moving to a city for work isn’t something that only happens to teens and 20 somethings, nor is getting an education. Then you have the family, who have to pick up where the rest of society left off. As it becomes more necessary to get assistance from your family we get rich families that can have investment properties for their small children and poor families that can’t send their kids off to a nice uni.

    It shouldn’t take a 20 something to point this out, mate.

  5. klewso

    A Budget aimed at “Infrastructure : and the Groin of the Intellect of succeeding battlers.”

  6. LucyJr

    I guess it is time young people looked to each other and discovered how to wield effective political strength. One thing they truly have going for them is they can expect to be around to vote in many more elections than their elders! Hardly easy when preoccupied with keeping fed, housed and educated, not to mention a love life.

    Despite wealthy donors appearing to have control it is each single citizen’s vote which keeps any MP in their seat. Politicians are starting to realise this and most will do whatever they can to keep seated!

  7. klewso

    Does this Turbott Government know what they’re doing at all?
    * Now they’re going “Gonski 2.0” : all the time wasted while they ‘Pyned’/lied (post election) and waged war against the (Labor) original?
    * We look like we’re going to be building a second Sydney airport – who for? Another “preferred donor” to which a future Limited News Party can sell it?

    1. klewso

      …. at “Mate’s Rates”?

  8. Tinatoerat

    Feeling incredibly sad for a friend who was due to have gained permanent residence soon – in time for second semester – and was shocked to the core when it seemed as though she would have to wait years more. (No word, I believe on whether she would come under old or new rules). Today, a second blow, on learning that as a permanent resident she couldn’t access Uni without paying full fees. She is strong, energetic, active, incredibly bright and motivated. Her first semester of Uni (paid full fees) has been full of challenges but her commitment and scholarly approach have brought her high marks and respect all round.
    What now? Following this track of limiting access to education leaves some of the brightest and best out in the cold. How cruel, how thoughtless and how horribly self-defeating.

  9. AR

    Agreed that the young will cop it but only because they are, usually, less well off than those older – they are not the targets per se, just collateral damage in the usual tory tactic of favouring those who will, or might, vote for them.
    The young, the poor, the marginalised & disadvantaged are of little interest despite their numbers, collectively, exceeding the conservatives.
    However they are, by definition, less likely to cohere and the tactic of divide to rule has been around for a while.
    As long as there is someone lower down the ladder their fingers will be stepped on by those just a little bit higher.

  10. Dog's Breakfast

    Glad to have you on board BK, and I recommend to others to read Richard Cooke’s scathing assessment of this phenomenon in the Monthly mag last year, probably my favourite article from 2016.

    While agreeing in principle with others comments about this being a class war, I tend to disagree. This is about the haves and the have-nots, but when you are young you have no choice but to be a have-not. This is about generational warfare, and has been going on ever since the boomers got hold of the levers of power early in their lives (and then pulled up the ladder as soon as they could).

    This is generational, this is real, and this is about the nastiest, greediest, most hypocritical generation that god threw on this earth, and depending on your google research I may or may not be one of them.

    For those younger ones who are smarter than Draco and less politically challenged, I’m doing what I can to stand up for you. Don’t worry, as the first of the gen X or the last of the boomers, I have had to sit and watch the backsides of these useless bastards all my life. At least you will get to see them all die and have the chance to jump on their graves.

    For my sake, please jump hard, and dance a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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