A few months ago, the Daily Telegraph ran a headline, “The Ferals are Revolting”.
That headline is very revealing, not just about the nature of the media, but also about how young people and students are seen in society in general. We are seen these things that are just supposed to work terrible jobs for terrible pay, and whatever our opinions are, they don’t really mean anything and we are just supposed to put up with it.
Considering that youth and students are generally undervalued and marginalised, and the impact the federal budget cuts will have on young people’s access to education, the fact that students are fighting back against the budget is not at all surprising.
This budget will mean cuts to funding for education, cuts to an already meagre welfare system and many other measures that ultimately will mean that youth and students will be much worse off.
We are being made ever more vulnerable and our lives are increasingly at the mercy of the cold logic of the private tyranny that is capital.
University degrees are becoming more like commodities, and very expensive commodities at that. Universities today are less like educational institutions than organisations providing a service to paying customers.
With the changes the government is bringing in, the costs of degrees are set to rise, in some cases dramatically so. The National Tertiary Education Union estimates the cost of medical degrees may go up to about $180,000 while law and engineering degrees will go over $100,000.
This generation of young people will also be in more debt than any other generation before us. On top of the increased cost of degrees there will be higher interest rates on student debts.
In addition to debt, with the state of the world economy and the lack of any evidence to support the notion that the global crisis will be over any time soon (in fact there is just the opposite), there is the strong possibility that we will be poorer than the generation before us. There will be fewer jobs and lower wages for an already heavily indebted generation.
What is to be done then? We can and should pressure the ALP and the Greens to stop this budget in parliament and when election time comes again, make it extremely difficult for the ALP to propose similar policies.
More importantly, we should continue to take to the streets. Not just young people and students but everyone whose fundamental interests are threatened by the Coalition government, including Aboriginal people, the women’s movement, the climate movement, refugees and people fighting for rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
We need to build a broad, mass social movement of people from all sections of society and we need to mobilise. This way we can be strong and make history because history isn’t made in parliament, it’s made on the streets.
[Ben Kohler is a student at the University of Wollongong. This is based on a speech he gave to a forum called “UOW Cuts and You” on August 7.]