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Government Not Being Fare with Travel Concessions

Submitted by on May 11, 2010 – 6:03 pm8 Comments

International students march for fairness. Image: Froge

New South Wales and Victoria need to come into line with the rest of forward-thinking Australia and step up their support of international students by offering them travel concessions. These states account for 60% of the student load.

In February 2010, Universities Australia released its position paper arguing against the state governments.  Dr. Rebecca Harris, Director of Communications and Government Relations, stated the position of the government as “ridiculous”.

She also confirmed that there are no new arguments against travel concessions being brought to light and to maintain their stance has become a case of them “simply peddling rhetoric”.

The same old arguments revolve around the perceived effect that the concessions would have on the governments bottom-line.

The Transport Administration Amendment (Travel Concession) Bill stated that international students are supposed to be self-sufficient in terms of meeting living costs, which includes transport. This creates a catch-22 where they are expected to be able to fully support themselves, but are then limited to work only 20 hours per week.

These policies towards international students trickle down and pollute the attitudes among citizens of these states. They develop the idea of why should we be supporting international students?

The answers to this question are obvious and ones that the government would see for itself if it stopped hiding behind its tired misconceptions.

The economic value of international students to the states exceeds the cost of concessions many times over. As demonstrated by Universities Australia, the subsidy cost of international travel concessions would be $40 million or less for NSW and Victoria in contrast to the tax benefit from international students of $400 million.

The notion that international students do not pay taxes in the same way as domestic students is another ploy by the government to hide their real reason for denying travel concessions: why change a policy in which the government can use international students as their cash cows.

Transport needs to be looked at as a residence issue, not a citizenship issue. International students are temporary residents paying GST and income tax in exactly the same way as domestic students, and the same arguments regarding costs of study should apply to them as well.

Travel concessions would also increase student safety. It would encourage them to take safer ways home from campus decreasing opportunistic attacks such as the recent stabbing of a University of Sydney PhD student as she walked home from an evening class.

The government needs to take notice of these issues and recognize its pure greed in denying international students the same level of affordable transportation.  They have the responsibility to reverse the inequality which excludes international students from the broader community. They need to stop propagating a negative image of the situation and take notice of what the rest of Australia is doing.

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8 Comments »

  • Jolie Chantharath says:

    I think that public transport in NSW is expensive in terms of the quality and quantity of services. Especially compared to overseas transport systems such as NYC.
    I don’t absolutely agree that travel concessions would increase student safety if services aren’t available or are regular.
    I do agree that international students should be offered travel concessions as they are paying GST and most of them will be using public transport as their only means of transport.

  • Suzi Heaton says:

    I agree that international students should be eligible for a travel concession.

    As tuition fees are already so expensive, surely much of what international students pay go towards funding some of the transport system anyway?

    It is a necessity for most students to be able to travel to and from university. I see no strong argument why we are excluded from receiving a concession. If we can get a concession to watch an NRL match, then why can’t we get a concession for something which is obviously essential to everyday living in Sydney?

  • Seraphin Petin says:

    If the Australian government could hear you… When I received my student card for the first time, I went to buy my weekly blue card ($35) with concession. I was surprised when the seller told me that I could not benefit from the concession. Back to UNI, at the International student office, I asked for the sticker to get travel concession as I thought that they had forgotten to stick it on my card and it was denied because … I wasn’t Australian. My first reaction was: I pay much more for my Master than any Australian students, I’m not rolling on cash, I’m a normal student (at least, I guess) and I do not understand WHY I have to pay $35 each week to go to UNI…

    This is now even worse. Indeed, since they have reformed their transport ticket system, allegedly cheaper, I actually have to pay $40 each week for exactly the same service without any improvement. This is just ridiculous and you are right to say that we are cash cows in this story! This is amazing that we altogether give $400 million to Australia and we can’t benefit from a $40 million civic service! Can we call that segregation?

    I really would like to see International students recognized for the human and intellectual value that they bring to UNI as well as normal students with equal rights and its really weird to write this kind of sentence in the 21st century!

  • Muqun Molly Niu says:

    I think this topic has been discussed for a very long time. and I agree that the travel concession in NSW is not fair. Because as an international student I have to choose the public transportation and the fee is higher than the local students.

    But I would like to know why it can not be changed for such a long time. Is there any other social or economical reason behind that?

  • Paula Comandari Andueza says:

    Thank you for that Sarah!! Actually, this has been one of the issues that International students like I have had to afford since we arrived here. Studying overseas is really expensive for any students. Sydney is such an expensive city especially for people from South America, where lifestyle is much cheaper over there. So I was so surprised when I realized that we were not able to have the Concession card. In fact, I thought it was really unfair, considering that transportation is really expensive and we are students as Australians are. So, of course, I do agree that international students should be offered travel concessions.

  • Sarah Manson says:

    I had actually spoken to a representative for the Minister for Transport of NSW David Campbell and he told me that they have no plans to introduce a concession in the near future due to the fact that when we apply for our visas we say that we have enough funds to to cover our cost of education and living. I wasn’t surprised by this answer which makes it no less frustrating. Everyone knows we are being used as another way to get more money and that is all!

  • Vera says:

    “This creates a catch-22 where they are expected to be able to fully support themselves, but are then limited to work only 20 hours per week.”
    I couldn’t agree with you more, Sarah.

    What Ian Campbell says is such garbage.~ It sounds like international students agree with this inequity of being treated in a different way with local students when they apply for their Visa.

    International education industry is actually Australia’s largest services export sector, as Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says. http://www.dfat.gov.au/aib/tourism_students.html

    I’m thinking NSW government has already taken big fortune from our high tuition fee, why can’t they offer international students same transportation fee with Aussie students?

    Even in China, (the “nondemocratic country”, in many western people’s eyes) foreign students pay same price of their tuition fee and transportation with Chinese students.

    I reckon they would change the situation eventually, as Australia is a multicultural country that every race would increasingly appeal for equality with locals.

  • Marcella De Carvalho Dias says:

    The argument from the government that international students should be self sufficient in terms of meeting living costs does not make any sense. Of course that international students are able to pay full priced train/bus tickets the same as all Australian students. We just don’t think it is fair that as being students we cannot pay concession. If there is a rule that students can pay concession, why oh why are we not allowed to have this concession as students?

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