Adjournment Debate – Indepdendent Youth Allowance
May 26, 2011
I rise to speak on the appalling treatment of regional students and their families by Labor over the past year and a half. Coalition has been fighting tooth-and-nail to reverse the disgraceful decision by the-then Minister for Education, and now Prime Minister to cut assistance for rural students under the Independent Youth Allowance scheme.
Regrettably I was on leave from the House at the beginning of this year, which prevented me from speaking on the importance of the work done by the Liberal-led Coalition members and Senators in the Coalition – particularly the Member for Forrest - in trying to talk this government back into commonsense and decency on this issue.
The Social Security Amendment (Income Support for Regional Students) Bill 2010, introduced by the Abbott-led Coalition aimed at reinstating $317 million worth of financial assistance stripped from rural student by Labor when Julia Gillard was Minister for Education. As a rural member of parliament at both a state and federal level for the past 23 years, I am totally dismayed by the Government’s disgraceful attempts to advise the Governor-General to scrap the bill proposed by the Abbott-led Coalition.
The Government has tried to block the Coalition’s moves at every-turn to get back the funding rural students desperately need. Students who cannot access Youth Allowance in the inner regions are going to be the big loser if the government persists with these appalling tactics.
Regardless, it is outrageous that the Coalition’s bill has not been enacted into law. It is a classic example of this Government choosing to do what is politically expedient, rather than stand up and do what is right.
At the beginning of this year I gathered 500 hundred signatures of hard working families and students from across the Hume electorate, in support of the Coalition’s petition to reinstate the financial support rural students desperately need to help them get through their tertiary education.
During the period I was running the petition and gathering signatures, I was being told stories such as the one from a family in Goulburn whose son was adversely affected by the changes introduced in July last year.
“With the current situation our son is not eligible for any financial assistance at all. As we live in Goulburn and he is studying in Canberra he will need to live there as his course convenor has told him he will need to be there 5 days a week.
Rent is quite expensive in the ACT. Unless he works for a further 30 hrs a week for 4 months longer he doesn’t qualify for youth allowance.
He has earned more than $13 010 in the financial year so we can not claim him to be dependent on us. He will turn 20 years old in May and feels he shouldn’t have to wait any longer to commence his course of study. We agree with this.
The present legislation is discouraging the youth of Australia from seeking further education and placing extra financial burdens on families.”
Mr Speaker, students and families planned their tertiary education, deferment, financial savings, and choice of university all in good faith; reliant on the Government’s criteria prior to the 1st July 2010 changes.
The Government scrapped the criteria during the very period that students and families were half-way through their attempt to meet the work and earning capacity criteria!
This decision is an astounding breach of faith; yet typical of a Government people know they can no longer trust or take at their word. As I have said for a long, long time: don’t look at what Labor says, look at what they do.
Because of this Government’s ineptitude, we now run the risk of having regional students turn away from continuing their student careers at university. This would be a tragic outcome for all Australians.