NSW Government indicates travel concession policy won’t change, despite petition

NSW Government indicates travel concession policy won’t change, despite petition
Image: NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

by CHRISTINE LAI

 

NSW Minister for Transport, Jo Haylen, has issued a statement in response to the ‘Fair Fares’ petition, indicating that the government’s stance on concession cards for part-time and international students will remain unchanged.

Earlier this year, The University of Sydney Student Representative Council and Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) launched a petition in collaboration with the City of Sydney and various state MPs which urged the New South Wales Legislative Assembly to extend transport concessions to all students in NSW, including part-time and international students

Currently, only full-time domestic students enrolled in accredited studies with higher education providers or Vocational Education and Training courses qualify for concession fares in NSW.

The petition garnered 20,000 signatures in March this year and was lodged in the Legislative Assembly in March by Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong.

MP Leong wrote in her submission:

“Part-time and international students are ineligible for travel concessions in New South Wales. This represents a glaring inequity for tertiary students; all students deserve travel concessions. NSW is currently the only state that does not offer some form of concession or discounted travel to international students.”

Disparity in Concession Policies

New South Wales is the only state in Australia that does not provide travel concessions to international students. In contrast, in Victoria, international undergraduate students have the option to purchase a Travel Pass, potentially saving up to $1,034 annually, as stated by Public Transport Victoria.

Moreover, full-time international students pursuing studies in Queensland are eligible for a 50% concession fare.

In a statement provided to City Hub, Ms Leong criticised the lack of action by the current NSW Labor Government regarding travel concessions for international students.

She described it as “disgraceful” that even 17 years after an NSW Labor Government failed to address the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal’s ruling that excluding international students from travel concessions amounted to racial discrimination, no progress has been made.

“We know international students aren’t the only ones impacted by this bad policy: people who study part-time because they have caring responsibilities, accessibility needs, or who need to support themselves through more hours of work also cannot access concessions,” she said.

She expressed concerns about the rising cost of living and the severe housing affordability crisis during the first year of the Minns NSW Labor Government.

“We know many international students are working multiple jobs in addition to their studies to keep food on the table and lights on – travel concessions would provide them with huge relief from mounting financial pressures”, said Ms Leong.

Recent City of Sydney support 

Councillor HY William Chan, who is also Deputy Chair of Transport, Heritage and Planning at the City of Sydney recently brought forth a motion to endorse the petition. It was passed unanimously.

He told City Hub it was “shameful” that the state government “continues to discriminate against international students based on their citizenship and nationality.”

“Lower transport costs for all students will be a lifeline to urgently help with the cost-of-living and housing crisis in Sydney, with students being forced to live further away from inner-city campuses,” he continued.

“Having spoken to student representatives, extending the concessions applicability to part-time students is not only feasible but also imperative.”

“Part-time students often rely on concession programs the most, yet they are unjustly restricted from accessing them due to their enrolment status.”

The state government’s refusal to allow international and part-time students travel concessions will risk undermining Sydney’s standing “as a hospital and inclusive destination for the best and brighter scholars worldwide,” he continued, agreeing with prominent business chambers across the city.

The move would also stimulate economic activity across the education, accommodation and hospitality sectors by attracting the brightest minds to Sydney, he said.

Weihong Liang (USyd SUPRA President), Councillor HY William Chan, Lord Mayor Clover Moore AO, Aashish Neupane (WSU International Student Association President) and Raghav Motani (UTS SRC International Student Officer). Image: Supplied

Minister for Transport Rejects Petition for Concession Travel

However, the minister for transport responded to the petition on Tuesday, maintaining that “under NSW law, full fee-paying overseas students are not eligible to receive concession travel.”

Haylen declared that visa applicants must demonstrate their ability to cover living expenses in Australia. She highlighted that Study Fare and exemptions for students with specific federal government scholarships or disabilities apply to both international and part-time students.

Haylen further explains that other part-time students are excluded from concession cards due to their perceived increased opportunities for employment.

“Any student that is ineligible for a concession fare can access the Study Fare on regional rail which provides a 15% discount on the seasonal adult fare.

“The Study Fare is available to international, interstate and full fee-paying overseas students. Across the Opal enabled network, the weekly fare cap of $50 for Adult Opal tickets also applies to these students”, she wrote.

SUPRA Disabilities Officer Gemma Lucy Smart informed City Hub that they were seeking clarification on the minister’s statement regarding part-time disabled students.

“At present, no consistent or transparent systems exist across the state to access concessions for this group, if they are available as claimed. I welcome the possibility of improving bureaucratic processes to make sure fair fares are possible for all disabled students across NSW’, Smart said.

SUPRA’s Push for Concession Reform

City Hub spoke with Weihong Liang, President of SUPRA, regarding the government’s decision to maintain its policy of denying concession cards to part-time and international students.

Liang stated they were actively advocating for a change in the law to ensure that international students are included among those eligible for concessional travel.

“While migration law, which is under Commonwealth jurisdiction, requires all international students in Australia to prove financial stability, this requirement does not preclude them from receiving travel concessions in other states.

“These concessions are not seen as contradictory to the financial requirements of their visas. Instead, our argument for providing concessions centres on achieving parity and fairness through a standardised national system that does not discriminate against international students in terms of access to travel benefits”, Liang said.

Liang also emphasised that the government’s oversight extended to part-time students, many of whom identify primarily as students and include individuals with disabilities, caregivers, and those working part-time for financial reasons.

“To rectify this, it’s crucial to implement technical measures such as age or employment status to determine eligibility, ensuring that genuine students receive the necessary support for their educational endeavours”, Liang added.

According to Liang, this year represents a significant milestone, with their petition attaining 20,000 signatures and endorsement from the New South Wales Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NSWVCC) and formal support from NSW NETU.

Liang plans to lead a group of over students to a public hearing on May 9 and continue their dialogue with key stakeholders to “bridge this communication gap and achieve a favourable resolution.”

You May Also Like

Comments are closed.