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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13178


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (16:43): I will be brief. I have followed the debate in the Senate and I will, in a somewhat lonely way, be opposing the government amendments on the Student Start-up Scholarship. I do think education is an investment and I do think this is a really important part of trying to engage regional communities in future opportunities. I do think vocational education is a very important part of the story of building collaboration across sectors and providing pathways for students from secondary schools on to tertiary education or into the workforce.

I am particularly concerned about the language that the government is using—that is, that the student scholarship start-up deferrals will only have a minor impact and that the deferrals are based on 'the current fiscal environment'. According to everything I hear from government, the current fiscal environment is pretty good. I hear of a AAA rating. I hear that the terms of trade are at record highs. I hear that interest rates are low. I hear that inflation is in-band. But the message is inconsistent: if the current fiscal environment is indeed so good, why are we making access to education for certain students harder?

Mr Hockey: You're starting to come over!

Mr OAKESHOTT: No, I think I am the last of the Mohicans: I am arguing the case that the current fiscal environment is so good that we should not be deferring the student start-up scholarship. That is exactly why I will be opposing these amendments. I am disappointed that, while government is advocating at many levels for greater equity of access to education and for education reform, this amendment is not an example of such advocacy and is if anything a step backwards. I will be opposing the amendments.