Tegan Keizer 0

Universal eligibility for university student transport concessions

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Right now, the following students to not qualify for a concession: •Part-time students •Students who work (even one hour) •International Full-fee paying students •External Students Domestic part-time students and working students are able to rort the system. Part-time students enrol in a full load and then unenrol, whilst students who work simply do not declare this. My position is that students should not have to break the law in order to receive a concession. The following is from a speech given by Sonia Hornery, State MP for Wallsend, to the Newcastle University Students Union on the matter. I would highly recommend you all take the time to read this, as it outlines the arguments for this petition perfectly. "In today's society we understand the importance of university education. We also understand the importance of equality and promoting it for our younger generation. Why then do we have legislation that subjectively differentiates between our university students in deciding who is and who is not deserving of transport concessions? Such discrimination prevents many in need from enjoying that privilege. New South Wales is one of only two States in Australia where international students, part-time students and students who undertake part-time work are refused transport concessions. Already our international students pay astronomically higher fees than domestic students. Why make them pay more? We cannot expect international students to feel comfortable and at home in our country if we do not afford them the privileges given to domestic students. International students suffer economically with the strain of living costs on top of high tuition fees. They, too, should be assisted whilst completing their studies. The higher fees paid by the body of international students assists in maintaining standards of teaching and research that we see in our universities. Without those fees our universities would be much worse off. Students from the Callaghan campus at the University of Newcastle within my electorate, live, work, shop and do business in the surrounding suburbs of Jesmond, Lambton and Waratah. This benefits the community by boosting the economy enormously. According to the Deloitte Access Economics analysis, international students each contribute almost $29,000 to the economy during their time of study. In 2008 alone New South Wales received $173 million from international students in the form of goods and services tax [GST]. Given the quest of New South Wales universities since 2008 to attract more international students, that figure has risen exponentially. Let us applaud and appreciate how much the Hunter is benefiting from this largess. What about our students who work part-time and those who are unable to study full-time? Most do so because they are struggling with their finances and they would otherwise be unable to make ends meet. It is vital for young people when they graduate to have experience of the working world. Students who work part-time should not be treated differently from those who do not. Such treatment is unfair. By allowing all students travel concessions we will be promoting the use of public transport which in turn will put money back into the public sector. It will reduce the number of students needing to use private vehicles which will reduce congestion, make available more parking spaces at universities and effect a reduction in carbon emissions. I appreciate how frustrating it is for those who are attending the University of Newcastle to try to find a parking space before lectures. That frustration is compounded because they may not be able to utilise public transport; it is out of the question. For those reasons I cannot see any logic in continuing with the current transport concession system. With the current system an Australian student from a wealthy family may be eligible for transport concessions while a student from a poorer background who must work in order to afford his or her education is not eligible for transport concessions. This is proof that the system is inherently flawed and in need of reform. One student stated, "I cannot get student discounts. I can get student discounts in other countries but not in the State I study in." By refusing to give international students the same rights we give domestic students we are discouraging them from studying at New South Wales institutions. There has been a recent decline in the number of international students choosing to study within our State which is partly due to the fact that students do not feel they are provided with an equitable and safe environment in which to study. By implementing measures such as rewarding international students with the right to transport concessions I believe this trend will be reversed in the future."

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