Education issue for first-timers

By UTE SCHULENBERG

THE Federal Election will be held in three weeks with 186,000 firsttime voters going to the polls. Locally, the main issue on Cowper's young first-time voters appears to be HECS fees, HECS fees and HECS fees! Overwhelmingly our panel of first-time voters said the cost of tertiary education was the most burning issue for them in this election campaign. This week and every Friday up until October 8, these six young people will be keeping us in touch with the pulse of politics from their point of view. Today's question posed by the Coffs Coast Advocate was: 'What is the most important issue in this election that will influence how you vote and why?' Damien Atkins, 18, Dorrigo: "HECS fees ? I'd like to go to uni next year and the Liberals policy of increasing fees would increase my bill and make it more difficult for me to afford university. "Labor has said they would like to reverse this decision and that will influence how I vote." ?Sam Peake, 18, Boambee: "Education. Funding to unis and HECS are the most important issues for me. "These issues affect me personally ? I can directly see their impact on me and people around me." "The changes announced by Labor (this week) about funding for (government and private) schools is a brave policy. You can criticise it but I support it ? I think it's a good idea." Siobhan Cleary, 18, Toormina: "Uni fees and HECS ? I have been particularly looking at this issue of uni fees and HECS debt. "Ideally, I would like to see a return to free education. The Greens are the only party who have said this. "They have also been talking about forgiving the current HECS debts ? that would be hard to do, but I think it is the right idea." Jason Griffiths, 18, Bellingen: "HECS fees ? I'm thinking of going to uni next year ? that's my future. "That is why this is the issue that will influence me the most." Our other two panel members took a broader view, preferring not to focus on the one issue of education. Katherine Brownlow, 18, Upper Orara: "I can't really choose one issue ? there are lots and they are all linked. "I am interested in who is making policy because they believe in it, rather than because they'll get votes." Amy Alexander, 17, Bellingen: "I watched the debate last weekend and I heard a lot about Medicare. I think bulk-billing is important. "I also think support for youth is an issue because young people can't always live at home with their parents or they need to move to the city when they leave school. "That's expensive and they need support while they stabilise."



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