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.