LOW TURNOUT: The Palmer United Party candidate for Page, Stephen Janes, speaks at the meet the candidates forum at Southern Cross University.
LOW TURNOUT: The Palmer United Party candidate for Page, Stephen Janes, speaks at the meet the candidates forum at Southern Cross University. Cathy Adams

Uni forum draws just 20

UNIVERSITY students want a say on a wider range of issues than just those directly related to their studies, their national union says.

But you wouldn't have thought so judging by the turn-out at an election forum in the Southern Cross University plaza at lunchtime yesterday.

Candidates for the Federal seat of Page were invited to speak and answer questions.

The incumbent Janelle Saffin (ALP) and her main challenger Kevin Hogan (Nationals) were unable to attend.

Ms Saffin sent representatives to sit alongside Desley Banks (Greens) and Stephen Janes (Palmer United Party).

They spoke to 20 students who had gathered in the plaza while perhaps 30 others ate their lunch on the fringes.

The main issues seemed to be university fees, which the Greens and the PUP said they would abolish; social security support for students; and the Federal Government's controversial decision to reduce the single-parent allowance.

Tori Kirkland, 18, of Lismore, mentioned live animal exports.

"I just don't think it's right to send animals overseas in the condition they are sending them," she said.

National Union of Students president Jade Tyrrell said last month that the election was an opportunity for students to make their voices heard.

"Students aren't just students, they're people and they care about a multitude of issues," she said.

"They care about things like the National Broadband Network, rights at work and marriage equality."

That they may, but if you were at the low-key event at SCU yesterday you wouldn't have thought any of that was too high on their agendas.

Ms Tyrrell said many students were disengaged from the political process and felt political debate had become insular.

"They feel like there's nothing to vote for," she said.

It looks like that may be closer to the mark.



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