Backbone of the economy 

By Gracie Hosie 

ABC News Australia recently released a snippet of a speech by the Director of the Australian Institute, Richard Dennise, to the National Press Club stating university students are the real ‘backbone of the economy’. *Sarcastically gasps* Like we didn’t already know.  

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world and it truly warms me that our student loans carry our nation’s budget, not the tax on the nation’s commodities. You see, we live in a country that has spun more lies than there are stairs on the Kelvin Grove campus, and that’s saying something. Now being informed that the Australian government collects more revenue from HELP-SFSS loans than it does from the petroleum resource rent tax, was a major kick in the crotch as a fellow university student.  

In a media release by Universities Australia back in 2018, Chief Executive at the time Catriona Jackson said, “Students studying full-time are only living on $18,000 a year — that’s well below the poverty line,”. Although that was six years ago, nothing has changed…sadly. Knowing one of the lowest-income earning groups in our nation is fueling the pockets of our government, instead of an industry these people in power fight so hard to protect, infuriates me. But hey, at least we got a thank you. 

Maybe you’re asking yourself “What is petroleum resource rent tax?” Well, in short… a political joke. A resource rent tax is imposed upon companies that extract petroleum resources. In an interview with SBS News, director of the energy program at Grattan Institute Tony Wood stated, “The resource rate tax is structured to favour the companies… that’s one of the reasons why having a lot of resource taxes would be better applied to the value of the commodity rather than the profit”. Because the tax only applies to profit, companies can structure their accounting in a way to minimise their profit as well as the amount of tax paid. This includes writing off the cost of big infrastructure investments over decades until the capital cost is returned and taking advantage of uplift factors, which go up each year. Due to these loopholes, very little petroleum resource rent tax is paid by these companies *womp womp*

To put things into perspective; in the 2023 financial year, the sum made from the petroleum resource rent tax was $2.3 billion, compared to $4.95 billion from HELP *mic dropped*. If you don’t laugh, you cry, right? Wrong. Richard Dennise has stepped up and requested the government to reform its “third world tax system”. During Dennise’s speech, he confidently referred to Norway as a positive example of what the Australian Government SHOULD be doing. “Norway is taxing their oil industry at a higher rate while providing free tertiary education”. I’m just as shocked as you.  

Although HELP-SFSS loans are implemented not to be paid until you reach a particular income bracket ($48,361 for the 2022-23 financial year; $51,550 for the 2023-24 year), indexation sure as Sherlock doesn’t help. With the recent rise of indexation being 7.1%, the largest rise students have faced *violently crying* meaning the government will be making more money off university students now than ever before.  Appalling is an understatement; the fossil fuel sector is one of the wealthiest industries in the world, with an estimated revenue of over $5 Billion AUD for 2024 . So, what do we do as university students to help this matter? 

Nothing.  

Until the people in power start realising that a university education is an investment into economic and social prosperity, we as students will continue to be drained of every dollar we have. 


Gracie is a second year student, majoring in Media and Communications. She moved to Brisbane early in 2023 and has since become obsessed with the media landscape here. She was lucky enough to intern at 4ZZZ, which has given her a strong insight to the Brisbane community and introduced her to her passion for radio.

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