The treasury has told student media organisations that they will not be allowed into this year’s budget lock-up.
This comes after a year in which the government has: frozen Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for bachelor degrees at 2017 levels, cut over 1,000 “specialist” student places, planned to increase student fees by 7.5 per cent over five years, and announced that it wishes to lower the HELP repayment threshold to $45,000.
Student media organisations supply the entire tertiary education sector with detailed reporting on exactly how these changes play out.
ANU’s Woroni reported on how the university’s entire Diploma of Languages program had been shut down due to budget cuts. The University of Melbourne’s Farrago covered their University’s response to the government’s MYEFO plans. And Sydney University’s Honi Soit demonstrated that their university would lose $51.7 million if proposed funding cuts were passed.
And we know there will be changes in this budget that need to be scrutinised: after all, Turnbull is already calling it a “baby-boomer friendly” document.
By refusing to let any of these media organisations into the lock-up, the government is stopping us from having unbridled access to Treasury officials while analysing the budget, and will effectively prevent student media from being able to publish any stories until the day after the lock-up.
The national post-budget conversation is shaped by Tuesday evening’s coverage—government, you are stopping young people from having a voice in that discussion.
Student media was told that the reason they were not allowed into the lock-up was because there was not enough space.
“Due to space restrictions, the lock-up is limited to professional news publications only.”
In 2017, 580 media personnel were given access to the budget lock-up. Some seats were used by professional media to make comedy skits and report “behind-the-scenes” of the budget lock-up.
It’s a weak excuse for the government to say that they can’t find enough space for a couple more chairs, when they do manage to find enough space for large camera crews to produce comedy routines inside the building.
If the government truly can’t find the space for the media organisations who apply, they should just move the lock-up to a bigger room.
And we’re not even asking for something new or extraordinary—student media was allowed into the budget lock-up in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
That’s why we are signing this open letter: after a year of sustained attempts to change higher education policy, we at least deserve the respect to be able to examine the government’s policy suggestions.
Young people at least deserve the respect to be able to examine the government’s policy. And really, what are you afraid of? If you believe your higher education policies are so good, government, why are you scared of ‘unprofessional’ student media outlets scrutinising them?
Pelican Editorial Team