SOME 300 students protested outside Parliament House recently, calling on the State Government to grant full public transport concessions to all graduate and international students.
The April 29 Fair Fares rally was led by the University of Melbourne’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), who handed a petition with more than 5000 signatures to State Government representative Yorrick Piper, on behalf of premier John Brumby.
Melbourne University’s vice-chancellor Glyn Davis was among those who signed the petition.
It is not the first time students have pushed for equal access to Victoria’s public transport concessions.
“Previously, it’s been mostly international student groups campaigning for concessions,” GSA president Paul Coats said.
“But we felt that it wasn’t just their fight.
“With the post-graduate students, we make up the majority of the student body.”
He said the issue of fair fares was a “touchstone for broader issues, especially for international students”.
“With the rising cost of living in Melbourne, the housing and rental crisis, and [now that] we’re heading into a recession, there is an escalating need for student concessions,” Mr Coats said.
GSA’s international student officer Anwar Shah said the government was “stubborn” in their refusal to grant concessions to all students, “while earning billions from international students and giving the same facilities to Australian undergraduates”.
A poll by the Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) found more than half of all respondents would consider studying somewhere else if they were offered transport concessions there.
AFIS national chairperson Wai Ken Wong said the cost of providing public transport concession was a “small fraction of international students’ financial contribution to the economy”.
Mr Wong cited an article by The Age in September 2007, when the State Government amended the Equal Opportunity Act banning discrimination complaints by overseas students over public transport.
“Hopefully, fair fares will reinvigorate the battle – because it’s been a very long one,” he said.