Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

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

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

5:59 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move government amendments (1) to (8) together:

(1)    Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 13 and 14), omit “30 June 2010”, substitute “31 December 2010”.

(2)    Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 18 to 20), omit paragraph 1067A(10C)(e), substitute:

             (e)    if the person would not be taken by section 1067D to be required to live away from home on the higher education start day, assuming he or she were not independent then—the person’s combined parental income (as defined in point 1067G-F10 of the Youth Allowance Rate Calculator in section 1067G) for the tax year described in subsection (10D) is less than $150,000; and

(3)    Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (line 23), omit “1 July 2010”, substitute “1 January 2011”.

(4)    Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 24 and 25), omit notes 1 and 2, substitute:

Note:   For undertaking full-time study see section 541B.

(5)    Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (after line 25), after subsection 1067A(10C), insert:

   (10D)    For the purposes of paragraph (10C)(e), the tax year is:

             (a)    the tax year ending on 30 June 2009; or

             (b)    the tax year ending on 30 June 2010 if:

                   (i)    the person requests, in writing in accordance with a form approved by the Secretary, the Secretary to determine that paragraph (10C)(e) apply to the person’s combined parental income for that tax year and the Secretary does so; or

                  (ii)    under point 1067G-F6 of the Youth Allowance Rate Calculator in section 1067G that tax year would be the appropriate tax year for the purpose of applying Module F of that Rate Calculator to the person in respect of a youth allowance payment period including the higher education start day (assuming youth allowance is or may be payable to the person).

(6)    Schedule 1, item 4, page 6 (line 4), omit “and (10C)”, substitute “, (10C) and (10D)”.

(7)    Schedule 2, item 4, page 20 (lines 16 to 19), omit section 592H, substitute:

592H  Amount of student start-up scholarship payment

Payment for which person is qualified in 2010

        (1)    The amount of a student start-up scholarship payment for which a person is qualified in 2010 is $717.

Payment for which person is qualified in 2011 or later

        (2)    The amount of a student start-up scholarship payment for which a person is qualified on or after 1 January 2011 is $1,127.

Note:   The amount of a student start-up scholarship payment for which a person is qualified on or after 1 January 2011 is indexed annually in line with CPI increases (see sections 1190 to 1194).

(8)    Schedule 2, item 19, page 28 (table item 68, 4th column), omit “section 592H”, substitute “subsection 592H(2)”.

The amendments that the government has moved reflect the agreement that has been reached as a compromise after discussions with the Greens and Senator Xenophon. These arrangements expand our current transitional measures to include transitional support to students who have had a gap year but remain at home. These students would be able to qualify under the old criteria in addition to the gap year students who have had to move away from home to study. However, this additional transitional assistance would only extend to students at home from families with incomes below $150,000. This is because the government does not think that students from families on incomes above this level should receive transitional support if they are living at home.

I noted that a number of opposition senators have indicated that they support improved targeting in the package, so I hope they will go on and support these particular measures. These measures provide the targeting that others have spoken of and which the government supports, but reduce the costs in such a manner as to be economically responsible. In fact, the changes will be made revenue neutral by ensuring that during the first year of the transitional period the student start-up scholarships will comprise two payments of $717 each. After this, the student start-up scholarships will revert to their original value of $2,254 indexed. They will be delivered in two payments each year, worth $1,127.

The government urges the Senate to support these arrangements. They reflect the agreement that has been reached with the Greens. If the Senate supports these amendments, the government will be able to provide expanded support to students during the transitional period to the new scheme. We will make sure that that new scheme ensures that assistance is targeted. The arrangements are economically responsible and they are designed to ensure that there are appropriate offsets by reducing the value of the start-up scholarships next year.

However, these amendments will not permanently gut the new student start-up scholarships to deal with the transitional issue as would be the case if the Senate were to adopt the Liberal Party’s position. The Liberal and National parties have sought to reduce benefits to 150,000 students. They have done so by seeking for the government to adopt measures that would be worth in excess of $1 billion in additional expenditure. This would produce a massive blow-out in the budget and is a measure that the government just simply cannot accept. One of the opposition’s amendments would see the existing gap year arrangements remain in place for students who need to move to study. This would allow students whose parents’ income is well above the parental income test to access support, at a massive cost to the budget.

These measures do acknowledge that to get this legislation through the parliament compromise was necessary. The government has compromised. As a result, the government has, I understand, the support of the Greens and Senator Xenophon. To be successful the measures will need the support of one other senator. If one other senator does not support these measures, they will fail and there will be a situation that arises where 150,000 students will have no support. As I said previously, if you are relying on the assumption that there will be time this week to reconsider this measure, you are mistaken. You cannot assume that the legislative program will allow for this matter to be reconsidered later in the week. We face the prospect that whenever this chamber rises at the end of this week 150,000 students will have no support. I urge senators to think very seriously about that possibility. I table a supplementary memorandum relating to the government’s amendments. A memorandum to this bill was circulated in the chamber on 23 November 2009.


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