Budget 2014: Students feel squeeze tightening

Empty pockets: Kieran O'Connor says students will struggle with the budget changes. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
Empty pockets: Kieran O'Connor says students will struggle with the budget changes. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Young people say they have been placed firmly in the government's firing line in the war against the deficit, after Joe Hockey's first federal budget.

"We're getting shot from all sides," 22-year-old University of Wollongong student Kieran O'Connor said on Wednesday.

"It might be easier for someone earning a lot of money to make cuts here and there, but a lot of young people can't cut any more. These changes will cut to the bone, they will strangle us."

Budget measures to hit Australian youth include higher university fees that will have to be repaid earlier and faster; shifting young welfare recipients from Newstart to lower-paying Youth Allowance payments; a six-month wait for unemployment benefits, then only being eligible for Work For The Dole; and replacing grants for apprentices to purchase tools with loans.

"Young people will be paying for the baby boomers' pensions, but we're the ones who will be most impacted by these cuts," Mr O'Connor said. Mitchell Bresser, president of UOW's undergraduate student association, said young people had been unfairly targeted.

"Joe Hockey said he doesn't want to borrow from future generations, but he doesn't seem to care about current young ones," he said.

Mr Bresser said the changes would make students think twice about going to university.

"You'll see a decrease in enrolment as prices increase. When you look at the increased costs of living, combined with increasing uni debts, and the idea of being unemployed for four years at university becomes very undesirable," he said.

"Professions that are needed but don't pay well will be hardest hit. The debt isn't going to become worth it to have a teaching or nursing degree. They are already underpaid, and there comes a point where your need to get out of debt overrides your kind nature to become a teacher or nurse."

Warrawong's Damien Schimmel, who takes casual labouring positions while searching for a job to support his young family, said the changes to welfare would blitz those who legitimately could not find work.

"If you have to wait six months for unemployment payments, you can't afford a house, you can't move in with your parents if you have three kids. You can't expect people to do that," he said.

"It just pushes people to take any job at any risk. I take asbestos removal jobs sometimes just for money. I wouldn't do it if I had a choice, but I have to support my family. Stuff like this just throws the world on its head."


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