Uni student stuns Q&A panel with sad personal story: 'I'm very sorry'

Representatives from Labor and the Coalition both looked uncomfortable when it was pointed out they supported cutting tax for the richest Australians.

A young Australian woman has taken the country's political parties to task in a powerful TV moment that has shined a light on a brutal choice facing young people in the country.

The uni student asked why she has been forced to decide between "getting an education and putting food on the table" to a panel on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night.

Bella Mitchell-Sears shared her struggles, saying that due to the rising cost of living and a recent decision by the Morrison government to increase the cost of certain university degrees, she was forced to "drop out of university" where she was enrolled in an arts degree and postpone her dream of being a teacher.

Bella Mitchell-Sears on Q&A.
Bella Mitchell-Sears said it felt 'impossible' to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher even though the country desperately needs more. Source: Q&A

"I've been forced into a position of putting my education on hold because I need to work full time to support myself," she told the panel.

"My bills continue to rise, owning a home just seems like a pipe dream and it doesn't look like its going to get any better."

Ms Mitchell-Sears, who recently stood for parliament for the Greens, has appeared on the program before with her then question about increasing university fees remaining as much of a concern today as it was three years ago.

"Once I finally do get the money to do it [degree], I'm now in $50,000 worth of debt," she said.

After sharing her story and asking what could be done for people in her situation, she admitted her hopes of one day studying felt "impossible".

Q&A Panel respond

UNSW economist Gigi Foster said she was "very sorry" to hear the student's circumstances, before pointing to government mismanagement of housing and the immense stimulus during Covid which fuelled inflation and the housing market and contributed to the difficulties faced by younger Australians.

"These decisions are the ones she's feeling the consequences of," Ms Foster argued.

Representatives from the Labor government and the Opposition both looked uncomfortable as host Stan Grant pointed out that both sides of politics supported cutting tax for the richest Australians, ostensibly making it harder for lower income earners like Bella.

Politicians Josh Burns and Perin Davey shared their beliefs on why young people are struggling and what can be done to elevate the pressures. Source: Q&A
Politicians Josh Burns and Perin Davey shared their beliefs on why young people are struggling and what can be done to alleviate the pressures. Source: Q&A

Labor representative Josh Burns chimed in and said that he believes a review of the university system is required to help cut costs for students.

"I think it was a retrograde step to make humanities degrees more expensive and I certainly don't support that," he said.

The Deputy Leader of the Nationals Perin Davey, who grew up in an Australia where university was free, suggested Bella leverage the policy of moving out to the regions and not having to pay her student HECS debt.

"[We] waive HECS debts for important industries if people are willing to move out to the regions. Housing is more affordable in the regions too," she suggested, before adding, "You'll love it. You'll never move back to the city".

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