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Cardboard Box Protest Over Emergency Benefit

By Tali Williams

Students camped out in cardboard boxes out side Parliament yesterday, in protest of the government voting not to reinstate the Community Wage Student.

The CWS (formerly the Emergency Unemployment Benefit) was for students unable to find work between academic years. Despite promises to bring back the benefit after it was cut by the National government in 1998, Labour and Alliance recently voted against a proposal by Green MP Sue Bradford to do this, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of students nation-wide.

“The boxes represent the conditions students will be forced to live under over the summer if this benefit is not reinstated,” said Yadana Saw, Welfare Officer at Victoria Students Association. Miss Saw said the past two summers have been characterised by hardship and heavy demands on university foodbanks. “10,000 students will be without any source of income for those six weeks,” she said.

Two years ago tertiary education minister Steve Maharey condemned the National government for cutting the CWS benefit, calling it a “mean-spirited attack on students that will only save a small amount of money.” He pledged that if Labour were government they would reinstate it.

“This was an out-right lie,” said student Joseph Kelly. “ It is just as mean-spirited for them to do just as National did.” Mr Kelly said he believed this would put off a lot of students who were considering attending university. “The thought of six weeks with no income would be highly discouraging,” he said.

Sue Bradford said the stance by Alliance and Labour was “plain wrong.”
“The Government can’t ignore the outrage over the refusal,” she said. “I urge them to think again about who voted them into power and then reconsider their decision.”
Ms Bradford said her party would continue to fight for the proposal.

Yadana Saw said students would keep up the pressure also. “We don’t want another summer of starvation.”

- AUTHOR NOTE: Tali Williams is a Journalism Student at Massey University

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