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Monday, 19 June 2000
Page: 15138

Senator BARTLETT (5:11 PM) —I would like to ask a couple of questions in relation to this issue, firstly, to Senator Evans, given the assumption behind his argument that the PES is inadequate, which I think is probably a reasonable assumption. I am not sure you need a government to report to tell you that the PES is inadequate to meet educational expenses. Any extra assistance that can be provided as part of an increase in the rate would obviously be beneficial, and I ask whether the opposition will commit to raising the rate of PES if they gained government, which is the logical extension of what they are trying to do here. As Senator Evans himself said, that is the better way to go, so it would be good to get a specific commitment from the opposition that that is the way they would go if they were in government and able to do it.

I would also like the minister to say if and when the department is likely to release the assessment to the public. I would also like to query, in relation to the part of the bill we are debating, what the explanatory memorandum says: that the remainder of the bill, that is, apart from the part to do with double orphan pension, has no financial impact. As I understand it, the opposition are suggesting that the course they are now proposing we go down would have a cost—I do not know if it is something you have provided to me be-fore, or I heard you say—of about $4 million dollars. In any case, it is obviously going to have some extra cost—a significant number of people will get payment for an extra number of weeks. I would therefore have thought the flip side of that would be that, by making this change, there would be a saving to government and that that would be reflected in the financial impact statement in the explanatory memorandum. I would like the minister to either point out the error in my logic or outline how much the Labor amendment is going to cost or, put the other way, indicate how much the bill as it stands—the change that is proposed in the bill—will save.