March 21, 2005 | Graham

Labor in favour of flat tax and non-means-tested welfare

I never thought I would see the day when Labor members were arguing for flat rate taxation and non-means-tested welfare. But then the Voluntary Student Union debate is unusual.
The arguments for keeping compulsory student unionism appear to be that it helps poorer students by making canteen food cheaper,and providing sporting and club facilities, counselling services and childcare. Interestingly enough, hardly anyone appears to be arguing that it is needed to represent the interests of students with university administrations – surely the main reason for unions in the first place.
They’re kidding aren’t they? Without a means test just exactly how do they determine that these benefits go to poorer students? It’s much more likely that they are used by the better off, or those in the know.
Take canteen food for example. When I was a poor student I packed a lunch, I didn’t buy it in the refectory. I imagine that nothing has changed since, which means that whatever part of poor students’ fees that are taken to make refectory food cheaper doesn’t benefit poor students at all.
But then, even if all students bought their lunches every day, this argument rests on the absurd proposition that if we all pool our money and allocate it towards a particular cost the act of pooling makes the cost less for all of us. This one was obviously thought up by someone from the humanities faculty!
And if the system is really meant for poor students, why should they pay the same levy as everyone else?
Same goes for sports and societies. It’s only the better off that will be likely to use these facilities. As for childcare the government already provides income contingent fee relief; and when it comes to counselling there are any number of subsidised sources for that as well.
When you think about it, as it is presented, compulsory student unionism is a privatised taxation and welfare system where everyone pays tax at the same level irrespective of ability, and the benefits to go to those who are better off, better informed or better connected, irrespective of need.
So why have so many ALP politicians jumped into this issue, particularly as they are the party which introduced means-testing into welfare and supports progressive taxation?
Teen angst. The reason such a trivial issue has dominated the media for the last week or so is because so many politicians and commentators were student politicians, and they still have unfinished business from those days. This isn’t really about student welfare at all, but about getting square with a Tony Abbott or a Jenny Macklin or a whoever because 30 years ago they turfed you from office by bribing the country kids in the residential colleges to vote for them with a six pack and a mars bar.

Posted by Graham at 11:31 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. Having heard Brendan Nelson on Triple J’s “Hack”, I think that the student union should be left to represent student views to the admin, which as you say Graham is the whole point of having a union. The other services are widely available to the whole commmunity anyway.
    But what would I know as I don’t start uni until next year?

    Comment by benno — March 21, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.