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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2049

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (11:42 AM) —I move government amendment (6) on sheet BV265 revised:

(6)    Schedule 1, item 3, page 6 (after line 9), after subsection 1067A(10D), insert:

     (10E)    This subsection applies to a person if:

              (a)    the person’s family home is in a location categorised under the Remoteness Structure as Outer Regional Australia, Remote Australia or Very Remote Australia; and

              (b)    the person is required to live away from home (see section 1067D); and

              (c)    the person is undertaking full-time study (see section 541B); and

              (d)    the person’s combined parental income (as defined in point 1067G-F10 of the Youth Allowance Rate Calculator in section 1067G) for the appropriate tax year (see Submodule 3 of Module F of that Calculator) is less than $150,000.

     (10F)    For the purposes of paragraph (10E)(a), Remoteness Structure means the Remoteness Structure described in:

              (a)    the document entitled “Statistical Geography Volume 1 Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) July 2006”, published by the Australian Statistician, that was effective 1 July 2006; or

              (b)    a document specified in a determination under subsection (10G) to be a replacement document.

     (10G)    The Secretary may, by written determination, specify a document for the purposes of paragraph (10F)(b). The document must be one published by the Australian Statistician.

    (10H)    A determination under subsection (10G) is not a legislative instrument.

Following negotiations with the opposition, the government has moved amendments to maintain the workforce participation criteria for independence for young people from remote and rural areas who are required to relocate to study. The government has been reasonable and gave this concession to secure passage of the bill. We have written agreement, as I have indicated, from the shadow minister for education that the bill will pass following these concessions. Under the government’s amendments, young people who are in full-time study will be able to get support under the old arrangements if they are required to live away from home to study when their family home is in a location characterised under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification, ASGC, as outer-regional Australia, remote Australia or very remote Australia and their parents’ income is less than $150,000 per annum. To fund this amendment, the value of Student Start-up scholarships will be reduced from $1,434 to $1,300 in 2010 and from $2,254 indexed to $2,128 in 2011, indexed in subsequent years.

This is, effectively, the nature of the arrangement that had been entered into between the government, through the Deputy Prime Minister, and the shadow minister. If honoured, it will deliver passage of the bill. What we have seen here today is the political posturing of senators who are seeking to move a motion to include the inner-regional areas, which they know the government cannot accept. We have had Senator Ronaldson come down here and talk about where I live in Pascoe Vale in Melbourne—a well known centre of wealth! This is a man who abandoned Ballarat to take up refuge in the Senate but wants to talk to us about relative disadvantage.

This is an issue that we hold dearly. We think that this is a measure that can be delivered. But to blow out the budget to include provisions that the opposition now seeks to include, outside the terms of the agreement that they have struck, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and blow up to a half a billion dollar hole in the budget. It would require, alternatively, massive cuts to the value of student start-up scholarships. Such a reduction in support to those in need would undermine the integrity of the reform package as a whole, including the key pillars of adequate scholarship payments and a fairer parental income test. Young people from inner regional areas generally have more options in terms of how and where they can choose to study. Young people from inner regional areas who face limited study options may be able to receive assistance from the $20 million hardship fund that the bill also provides for.

Let me make it very clear: the opposition did not push the inclusion of the details they are now seeking to include, in terms of inner regional areas, in the deal that they negotiated with the government. This is a new element that they have discovered, after the announcement of the terms of the compromises that have been made to secure passage of this bill. What we are seeing now, at the last moment, is this new element introduced. I can only question their commitment with their playing of these games. In politics leadership requires you to say no when you know what is being proposed is wrong, when you know that such a proposition cannot be accepted. That is why I say this is a pantomime. It is not about whether or not people are concerned about the welfare of individual students; it is about the political posturing of the coalition when it comes to playing games in relation to the deal that they have struck with the government.

The government will reject amendments which are outside the terms of the agreement struck between the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Pyne, which have been acknowledged under the terms of Mr Pyne’s letter of 16 March, where he says:

As agreed with you we will ensure passage of the legislation this week so that Commonwealth scholarships can be made available as soon as possible.

To play out this game other than that is to engage in a pantomime, and that is what is going on right now. What we have now is a position where the coalition will be called upon to honour its word. That is what is going to happen. And sooner or later the realisation of the meaning of that concept will become apparent to all of those on that side of the chamber.