Home Get Funding Uni funding, welfare cuts, drug testing: What to expect from politics in 2018

Uni funding, welfare cuts, drug testing: What to expect from politics in 2018

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Most people wake up on 1 Jan hungover, hungry and wondering where they left their mobile phone. An awful lot of people will stay awake to watch 2017 tick over to 2018. And apart from the resolutions to lose weight / save money / be nicer to your mum when the clock struck midnight, something more significant will happen: a whole bunch of new laws will come into play.

Hack has compiled a list of the ones that are most likely to impact young people.

Changes to the way unis are funded

Last month the government announced a massive shake up of the way universities are funded. From 1 January, there will be a freeze on the amount of money unis get for bachelor courses via the Commonwealth Grants Scheme, effectively freezing the number of student places at 2017 levels.

Unis can still offer more bachelor places if they want to, but they’ll have to bear the costs themselves – something the facilities are reluctant to do.

The changes don’t impact current students, but they can limit the places available to future students. Meaning it could be harder to get into the course of your choice in 2018.

Welfare cut for vocational students

As of 1 January, if you’re studying a TAFE or private college course that isn’t on the government’s approved list, you’ll no longer be able to access income support while you’re studying.

In September Hack revealed that the federal government was planning on limiting welfare – things like Youth Allowance, AusStudy and AbStudy – for certain vocational education students. If you choose to take on a course that isn’t on the skills shortage list, then you’ll no longer be able to get the government’s help.

Arts students are particularly hard hit, but those students can choose to pick up a course at uni and still get income support while studying there. The changes that come into play only impact TAFE and private college students.

Centrelink changes for rural and regional students

Income support payments for young people are determined on whether or not that person is considered ‘independent’ from their parents.

Under the 1 January changes, if you’re a student from rural and regional areas, you can be considered independent if you earn a certain amount of money over a 14 month period, rather than an 18 month period.

In other words, you may be considered ‘independent’ for Youth Allowance and AusStudy or AbStudy sooner than in the past.

Other things to keep an eye on in 2018

There’s a bunch of policies waiting in the wings this year for when Parliament resumes in February.

The government shelved plans to drug test welfare recipients in three trial sites across the country shortly before Parliament rose for the summer break. That was mostly because it knew it didn’t have the numbers to get it passed.

But in December’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (AKA MYEFO, or mini-budget) they’d set aside $10 million for enhanced drug treatment facilities in the designated trial sites.

The extra cash for rehab acts as a bit of a sweetener for reluctant senators to try and get the policy across the line, so expect a lot of debate and negotiation on this particular item when the pollies are back in Canberra.

After YEARS of pressure, the Coalition caved and agreed to hold a Royal Commission into the banks and other financial institutions. Expect more detail on how and when the inquiry will get underway – and what, if any, penalties the institutions can expect for findings of wrongdoing. The government has set aside $75 million over two years for the inquiry.

Late in 2017, the Senate released a report into tackling modern slavery in Australia. Among its recommendations was the idea of mandatory reporting – that is, that big business was responsible for looking into its own supply chain and making sure that slavery wasn’t present.

The government is thinking about how to make that work. The United Kingdom has something similar that Australia could use as a template. The first step is a consultation process with industry and business leaders – that’s going to start in 2018.

Citizenship dramas to continue

Section 44 of the constitution was the chief slayer of politicians in 2017, and it looks like the drama is set to continue in 2018.

Two Labor pollies have been referred to the High Court to have their eligibility tested, and Rebekha Sharkie from the Nick Xenophon Team and a few other Coalition MPs have a shadow over their future, too. If the House of Reps MPs are found to be eligible for dual citizenship, then they’ll be disqualified from holding onto their seats. Which means by-elections for those electorates. Senators can be replaced by the parties themselves, instead of holding by-elections, so us voters don’t get much of say there.

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