Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

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

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

6:21 pm

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

I seek leave to table a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, outlining the government’s commitment to establishing a task force specifically to look at the new pathway that we need in order to support rural students.

Leave granted.

We have bought 12 months. If the government’s amendments are passed then we have removed the retrospectivity aspect so there are 12 months clear for us to come to a proper solution to support rural and regional students. I do believe that that is the best way forward in order to allow students to start the next academic semester—which for some students will start in January, for others February and others March 2010—with some certainty about what they will face. That is the deal for the next round of students, but after that, as I have already said, we need to find a better pathway for students, for the brothers and sisters of this year’s gap year students, this year’s students moving from the country to the city in order to get a further education.

We need to see that commitment from government. I am tabling this letter here today because we have had these discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister. But do not be mistaken: the Greens will continue to push this issue. We were the ones who moved an amendment right from the word go for an increase in the youth allowance, because it is ridiculously low. It is more than $100 less than Newstart. Somehow we think that students, because they are studying, need less money than someone who is out looking for a job. This is the ridiculous situation we are in. We are talking about a maximum of $341 a fortnight when we know that the cost of a student studying per fortnight is up at the $600 to $700 mark.

The government need to seriously consider injecting more funds into student support if their education revolution is ever going to be realised. We need a commitment that they will seriously take on this issue in relation to rural and regional students and an acknowledgement that overall there is no education revolution without supporting students to do the job they are there to do, and that is to study, to get their degrees and then to move into the workforce and contribute to society. It is a long-term plan that we need to see from the government and it requires investment.

I have been very outspoken about this from day one. I do not believe you can bring in major reforms without injecting money. So this is the 12-month transition. They need to find some dough to back this up. This is not a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I am not into that. We actually need to find an injection of funds. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to broaden the accessibility of youth allowance to more people without putting more money in. You have 12 months to do it. That is what we want to see from the government, and I table the letter today.


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