The Guardian October 31, 2001


Meet the CPA candidates
Policies for young people
Peace, jobs, refugees, education, environment

CPA candidates for the Senate elections in NSW include Dora Anthony a 
22-year-old postgraduate student at Sydney University. She is President of 
the Sydney University Marxist Club, a member of the Council of the 
Postgraduate Representative Association and Director of Student 
Publications. She is a member of the Sydney District Committee of the CPA 
and active in the Cypriot Branch of the Party.

The Guardian sought her views on issues that she considers are most 
relevant in her campaign for the federal elections. 

Guardian: Which matters do you think will influence voting 
patterns in the elections and how do you think young people, in particular, 
will respond?

Dora: As we are all aware, international developments have 
been very dramatic over recent months and will, no doubt, be prominent in 
the minds of voters including young people. 

The terrorism that has occurred in the US cannot be supported or condoned, 
but the US and other countries including Australia have reacted in a way 
which many young people are now beginning to question. 

Generally, young people tend to be freer in their thinking and are not so 
inclined to accept policies just because they come from above. I think they 
are increasingly questioning whether the terrorism is an attack on "freedom 
and democracy" in the US as Bush claims or whether it is a response to US 
foreign policies. And many young people are questioning whether the bombing 
of Afghanistan is the right thing to do in this situation.

The terrorist attacks within the US were criminal-type actions, not the 
attack of one country against another. What does it say about the US that 
it chose not to use the criminal courts, which was done with the Lockarbie 
hijacking in the UK, but instead, launched a massive bombardment of one of 
the poorest countries in the world? Is this the proper reaction or will it 
make matters worse? 

Young people hope for a civilised approach to the problem of terrorism, not 
one which will take us back to the Dark Ages.

Over a long period of time the US has earned a reputation of bullying other 
countries and interfering in their internal affairs. They try to bring down 
any social or political system they do not agree with. Since WWII they have 
never supported progressive systems but have sided with reactionaries, 
subversives and anti-communists. 

Australia has again lined itself up with the US. Howard and Beazley had no 
hesitation in putting Australian troops at the service of the US war 
machine. But I am sure that as time goes by, young people will increasingly 
doubt whether subservience to the US is in our best interests.

I see the youth as having a big say in what is unfolding on the 
international arena. Already many young people have joined in anti-war 
demonstrations around Australia and in many other countries. 

The federal elections are being held at a time when pro-war sentiments are 
very strong in Australia, however I feel that young voters in particular 
will be registering a vote against the war mongering of the major parties 
and this sentiment will increase further as time goes by.

Guardian: How do you assess the response of young people in 
relation to the refugee crisis?

Dora: This situation is somewhat similar. There has been an 
initial hostile reaction to the refugees and support for Howard and 
Beazley's position, but public opinion will, no doubt, change.

The refugee problem is a world problem, not just one for Australia. The 
Australian government is not entitled to act purely in terms of self 
interest. It must abide by United Nations conventions and act under the 
guidance of the UN refugee authorities.

If Australia does not agree with UN procedures, the government should take 
up the matter with the UN. It is not a question of working out arrangements 
on the run with cash-strapped Pacific Island nations or with Indonesia.

Until new procedures are set in place, Australia must accept asylum seekers 
who come to Australia or enter Australian waters and then assess their 
refugee status. We have no right to send them to other countries for 
processing. We certainly have no right to use military force.

Many young people I have come across have felt incensed by the handling of 
the Tampa situation and by the drowning of hundreds of refugees on their 
way to Australia. The Australian government showed no remorse. 

The really worrying thing is the type of values this instills in Australian 
society. Are we a country that does its own thing irrespective of what the 
rest of world thinks, a country that ignores responsibility for world 
problems and leaves men, women and children floundering in desperate 
situations? I am confident that young people will not accept these values 
and opt for a humanitarian society which sees itself not above but part of 
the world community.

Guardian: Young people in Australia have their own 
difficulties in coping with the demands and pressures of daily life. What 
problems of youth do you think should be emphasised in these elections?

Dora: A problem always facing young people is whether they 
will be able to get a proper and secure job. It is frightening to see the 
recent collapse of a number of big companies across a range of industries -
- insurance, communications, mining and the airline industry  throwing 
thousands of people out of work. I would imagine that workers would have 
lost not only their jobs, but their whole careers for which they would have 
studied and gained qualifications.

These circumstances and the gloomy economic forecasts create considerable 
grounds for concern  whether young people will be able to get jobs 
because of the shrinking job market and if they do get jobs, whether they 
will be able to hold onto their jobs.

What has become increasingly clear is that the private sector of the 
economy is very brittle. The public sector at least has a degree of 
security and is better able to withstand economic crises because of 
government backing. Public enterprises have some accountability, compared 
with private companies which are run by individuals who put their own 
personal gain even above those of company shareholders.

The situation calls for not only a halt to privatisation, but a program to 
nationalise companies in key economic sectors. The public sector must be 
built up as the foundation of the economy. Then young people could feel 
more optimistic about their future employment. It is absurd where we have a 
situation that a major airline, which is vital to the economy, could just 
go out of business virtually overnight.

Guradian: How important are education issues in this 
election?

Dora: The situation facing university students is 
deteriorating and creating a lot of insecurity. Not only are students 
worried about their prospects of getting a job, but gaining their tertiary 
qualifications is a real struggle.

The government has for a number of years pursued a dual policy of user-pays 
university education and cut backs in direct government funding to 
universities.

Both of the major parties talk copiously about having a skilled and 
knowledgeable, society, but neither party will deviate from the user-pays 
system and neither has plans to overcome the serious depletion of 
government funding to universities. They both talk of a partnership with 
private enterprise to shape the direction of university education.

But the most pressing need is for an immediate injection of government 
funds to reduce the burden of student fees and for an across-the-board 
increase in teaching staff numbers. Of course there must be long term plans 
and a philosophy of education  and we have something to say on these 
matters  but the first and immediate priority is to try and hold the 
present system together so that today's students have access to a proper 
education.

The other area of serious concern is in relation to primary and secondary 
education. The major problem is that governments have deliberately created 
a shift in enrolments to private schools. Federal and state governments 
have brought about this situation through their funding policies.

The more that education funds are diverted from public schools, the worse 
their image will get and the stronger will be the lure of private school 
education. Parents make a choice about where to send their children, but 
when funding is lavished on private schools, the choice is not being made 
by parents but by governments.

The present situation is made even more farcical by the huge sums of 
government money handed out to wealthy, elitist private schools.

We call for an immediate cessation of government funding of elite schools, 
and a progressive increase in the proportion of the education budget for 
public schools. Public education is a basic social responsibility of 
government that must not be abandoned.

Guardian: Are there other issues in which young people will 
be mindful of in these elections?

Dora: Another major area that concerns youth, and of course 
many other sections of the community, is the environment. A lot of young 
people are involved in school and community environment actions, such as 
recycling programs, land care and clean-up activities, and there has been 
an increasing consciousness of the need to protect our environment and 
natural resources.

These efforts however are not matched by the policies of government, which 
continues to lean towards the interests of big business. The Federal 
Government in particular has a lot to make up. Australia continues to have 
one of the worst forest clearing rates in the world and permissible levels 
of chemical atmospheric emissions remain too high. Where there is 
contention, government policies favour corporate interests.

One of the most regrettable features in recent years has been the weakening 
of international efforts for environmental control. Whereas the UN and 
world environment forums should be having increasing power and influence, 
their efforts have been seriously set back as a result of significant 
countries refusing to enter into binding agreements.

The decision of the US to withdraw from the Kyoto agreement has undermined 
the authority of international forums. The next Australian government must 
take a firmer position in supporting and applying international decisions, 
as well as taking much more initiative to fix up our own problems.

Back to index page