Vol 11, Issue 3
Excited to be starting uni in mid February? Actually looking forward to class? Just got your $140 copy of ‘Laying Down the Law’ (which you will never ever use again)?
You log onto your student portal and look for the form for your Victorian Public Transport Tertiary Concession Card. Cos hey, you’re a full time student again right?
You find yourself staring at these 23 words:
‘Unfortunately, you are not eligible for a VPT Tertiary Concession Card if you are enrolled in a Masters, Doctorate or other postgraduate course.’
What. The. Fuck.
Has this ever happened to you? Hint. If you are reading this publication the answer is almost certainly yes. And it isn’t just ‘unfortunate’ - it fucking sucks.
You see, the thing is this; over the last ten years the number of Victorian domestic full time postgraduate students has more than doubled (from 14,000 to nearly 30, 000). When you add in full time international students you get a total figure of about 70, 000 postgraduate students. A lot of this has to do with the ‘Melbourne Model’. Surprise!
And yet the transport-ticketing system in Victoria (‘the education state’) has failed to keep up with this rapid change.
For some reason the State government (and maybe the public more generally) still has this idea in their heads of the average postgraduate student as some well established middle aged professional returning to a G8 to do an MBA or something – instead of say – a twenty-something year old trying to balance full time coursework and / or research with part time work, general CV padding and some shred of a social or family life.
What’s more, for whatever reason, Victoria is the only state or territory in Australia which fails to provide some form of transport concession for postgraduate students.
Perhaps more annoyingly, when the Andrews government recently announced a raft of admittedly really great ticketing reforms in December last year (aka the ‘making public transport fairer, cheaper and easier to understand for kids and families’ reforms), the issue of concession for full time postgraduate students was entirely overlooked. Talk about a missed opportunity!
That’s why over the last twelve months the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Council of Australian Post Graduate Associations (CAPA) has been calling on the State Government to fix this problem. We are also working to build a cross-university coalition to strengthen our cause (because hey, Melbourne Uni students crying poor has never been the most compelling thing in the world). So far our cause has gained support from the Public Transport Users Association, the Rail Tram Bus Union and even from our VC Glyn Davis. We are also currently talking to the Greens, the cross-bench and the Coalition.
On our estimates it will cost the State Treasury about $6 -10 million per year. This is a drop in the ocean when you consider Victoria’s GDP per year sits at around $355.6 billion - as of 2014/15 - (or 75, 659 Corkmans).
De Minimis has corrected this article 22/03/2017, we initially stated that the cost was around $70 million. We have since received advice that this grossly overestimated the amount it would cost the Victorian Treasury.
‘But what about the Low Income Health Care Card Concession?’, I hear some of you scream (though to be honest it is nice hearing some of you types actually defending the notion of welfare).
I could respond by pointing to the obvious inequality of making postgraduate students jump through this hoop and not undergraduates (if this is the best system, why not just apply it equally?). Or I could point to the hairline trigger of the concession (if your income spikes for whatever reason, you’re straight off the boat buddy, and you’ll need to reapply. all. over. again).
However, I personally find the most compelling argument to be this, our welfare system has been cut to the absolute bone; it now targets only the poorest of poor. I’m no fan of middle class welfare, but let’s be real, there are plenty of low income students who are earning just over the threshold and yet are still deserving of a helping hand.
The reality though is there aren’t any votes in this issue for the state government. As such, our letters to the various relevant ministers (Jacinta Allan and James Merlino) have fallen on deaf ears. The Andrews Government has made a calculation that most of us already vote Greens or Labor and that it’s unlikely the Libs will back this proposal. And the Government is probably right here.
This is not about bashing the State Government – full confession I’m a proud Labor member and think Andrews is largely doing a great job – this is about Victoria – the so-called ‘Education State’ - falling into line with the rest of the country - by making everyday life just that little bit easier for our hard working postgraduate students and by putting equity back into the tertiary ticketing system.
This is about doing the right thing.
If you agree, please join our campaign. Like ‘Fares Fair PTV’ on Facebook and come to an event.
Our first public action was a GSA and CAPA speak out on Tuesday 14th March at the State Library from 10am.
However, if you weren’t able to make it, to bastardise a Whitlam quote I can’t properly remember, ‘the road of the reformer is long in Australia’, so rest assured - there will be plenty of ways to get involved in the very near future.
Thomas Whiteside is a fourth-year JD student and the outgoing General Secretary of the Graduate Student's Association.
The rest of this issue
More articles like this