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No transport concessions because students can’t vote

Leon Saw

Tue Jul 10 2012

Public transport concessions for international students in Victoria

FORMER Victorian state minister Phil Honeywood says international have no public transport concessions because “they cannot vote”. Leon Saw reports from the CISA National Conference in Brisbane.

Former Victorian state Minister for Tertiary Education and Training Phil Honeywood says international students in Victoria and New South Wales do not enjoy transport concessions, unlike their counterparts in other states, simply because “they cannot vote”.

The national executive director of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), Mr Honeywood was speaking to Meld at the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) National Conference in Brisbane.

“Votes make a difference. They change or return governments, which affect policy,” Mr Honeywood said.

Mr Honeywood also cited cost as another factor preventing state governments from providing public transport concessions to international students in both states.

“The state governments, whether they’re Labor or Liberal, simply cannot find additional money to subsidise the bus, train, and tram fares for international students. There are always hospitals, roads and school in the state that need money,” he said.

Mr Honeywood said he had advocated subsidising transport fares for international students in Victoria when he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs in 1992, but “had to take nine million dollars from the education budget and give it to the state transport minister every year, which was too costly”.

He did however, say that “that was in 1992, when we did not fully understand the cultural, economic and social benefits of having international students in Australia. Now we do.”

Mr Honeywood said international students in Victoria and New South Wales could lobby their respective state governments for transport concessions.

“International students can get a petition going, go out and get signatures for it, and have them taken to the state parliament by members of parliament who are sympathetic to the cause,” he said.

He said international students could also “get domestic students and other Australians to lobby members of parliament on their behalf”.

“Basically, in modern democratic societies, international students need to stand up and be counted. They need to make noise. Not protest, but get people’s attention, get people to listen to what they have to say,” he said

International students in Victoria have been petitioning for public transport concessions as early as 2009.

The Fair Fares rally, held on April 29, 2009 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 then Premier John Brumby. (Related story: Fair fares campaign gains momentum)

Another rally was planned for September 2 that year, with a second petition to be handed to Mr Brumby.

In August 2011, the National Union of Students (NUS) launched a campaign for a national student concession card scheme, aimed at allowing all students to buy concession fares on public transport.

Earlier this year, the Eastern Transport Coalition – which comprises the Monash, Maroondah, Yarra Ranges, Knox and Greater Dandenong city councils – backed a report from a private education trainer, recommending international students have access to subsidised tickets.

In May this year, two international student leaders also started an online petition, focusing on the personal impacts of high travel costs on international students, including health and safety concerns.