Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

5:40 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I want to add the Greens’ comments to this discussion as to whether or not we will insist on the amendments. I think that what is important to note in all of this is that we need to be getting some type of solution that works for everybody. I have been very clear from the word go about our concerns with the government’s proposals. From budget night we have been raising the issues in relation to how these changes would affect students, particularly rural and regional students, right around the country. I am concerned that it has taken until this point for us to have a proper, robust discussion with the government on it. I am concerned that it has taken until this point for the government to acknowledge the issues in relation to the retrospectivity aspects of the legislation, but obviously their amendments circulated last night mean that they have started to at least acknowledge that there are some concerns and issues there with retrospectivity.

I do not believe that the bill as passed by the House, without all of the amendments that the Senate passed last week, is a good bill. In retrospect it is obviously a little bit improved over the piece of legislation we saw the first time around, because it includes two Greens amendments that have helped to improve the situation, but obviously the House rejected the rest. I think it would be remiss if this chamber simply did not deal with the legislation, go into the committee stage and talk about where we can go next. I do not want to be in a position where we do not have something at the end of this week to deliver to students—all students, city students and country students. I think it is time that we got real about needing to debate and negotiate properly across all sides.

Therefore the Greens will not be insisting on our amendments, in good faith that we can enter the committee stage and negotiate for proper amendments to this legislation that will make a difference. That is where we are coming from. I understand that the coalition want the legislation as it was passed by the Senate the first time around, but I think we need to accept that the only way we are going to deliver real results here for anybody is to keep talking and to keep trying to come up with some better solutions.

I think that the government needs to seriously consider its actions in relation to rural and regional students. If not in this package, it needs to come up with something else sooner rather than later because, even if we can buy 12 months for this year’s gappers, it does not save the brothers and sisters of those gap-year students. We need something else. Okay, the government disagrees that perhaps it should be a new criterion. That is fine. I can accept that, but I need to see what it is that you will do. I would hope that the coalition would be in agreement that we need to have something passed so that all students get something and that we should not simply dismiss the concerns of rural and regional students. That is why I am saying we will not insist at this stage, but we will enter into the committee stage and have a good debate about further amendments that we need to see the legislation improved, because what was passed by the House is simply not good enough.


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