Students protest 2012 "Black Budget"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Students protest 2012 "Black Budget"
This afternoon, Thursday 24th May at 1pm, in coordination with universities around the country, in solidarity with international student movements in Montreal and Greece, and with the support of the Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA), Blockade the Budget (Auckland) will hold a rally followed by a blockade of the Symonds Street intersection to oppose National's budget reforms as well as sanctioning a student strike to protest against National's Black Budget that they say will negatively impact not only students but middle and lower income citizens, the sense of social cohesion, and access to public services amid an already rising cost of living.
Some of these austerity policies include:
- Freezing the parental income threshold (eligibility for allowances are based on this - so fewer students will qualify for the weekly allowance).
- Limit the time students can get the allowance (so they will have to borrow to live if they want to study longer than 200 weeks - this includes postgraduate degrees, and degrees like medical, law or conjoint degrees.)
- Increase the repayment rate to 12%, and start repaying at $19,000+ as opposed to Australia's threshold which is $48,000 - a number much closer to the average wage (further impoverishing those who are already struggling to pay back huge student loans, have mortgages to pay and children to feed.)
- Further cuts to funding for the Arts and Humanities.
Denise French, a third year student, says, "We are striking to fight back against the attacks the 2012 Budget wages on students, workers and families. It says that students are consumers, and the University is a business like any other rather than the "critic and conscience" of society, as is enshrined in law. This kind of logic permeates not only education but healthcare, housing, welfare, public assets and all the other public services we have left.
"Borrowing to live is intergenerational theft. The politicians in the Beehive had free tertiary education, and many received living allowances too. User-pays is not inevitable - it is part of a neoliberal agenda that enables the elite to grow their wealth and destroys communities. A record number of New Zealanders left the country in the last three months - breaking up families and resulting in a brain drain. The government promised in 2008 to close the gap with Australia; instead we see incredibly low wages, very high unemployment, and hiking up loan repayments for already struggling low income families is only going to make this worse."
Blockade the Budget's kaupapa is supported by the Council of Trade Unions, the Service and Food Workers Union, the Tertiary Education Union/Te Hautū Kahurangi O Aotearoa, the New Zealand Tramways and Public Passenger Transport Union, Actor's Equity, Nga Tauira Maori, the Commerce Students' Association, the University of Auckland Samoan Students' Association, the Mana movement, Socialist Aotearoa, Auckland Action Against Poverty, Quality Public Education Coalition:
"We, students, teachers, researchers, workers, politicians, parents, call for a transformation to the current fees, loans and repayment system in tertiary education. We do not need small reforms, we need structural change. When the government and the elite insist that the only way to fund education is indebtedness, we say that education is a human right and a social necessity. We say that targeting citizen-students who cannot pay and landing them with crippling debt, is a violation of the principles of equality and freedom that our country is supposedly built on. We say that democracy demands educated and creative people, and that these changes, and the fees and loans system as it already stands, impoverish nearly every citizen who decides to pursue tertiary education. We say that the current government and the elite are destabilizing our country and mindlessly trading our future for their own privileged present."
Postgraduate student Benjamin Lee says, "This is an absolutely rapacious budget. Our austerity is their prosperity, it seems."