Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4210

Mr CHESTER (6:39 PM) —I wish to highlight for the benefit of the House a petition which is circulating in Gippsland. This petition is in direct response to the Rudd government’s flawed decision to change the eligibility criteria for students seeking to access the independent rate of youth allowance. I join with the petitioners in highlighting the simple fact that these changes to the youth allowance place another barrier to university participation for students in regional areas. They unfairly discriminate against students currently undertaking a gap year and contradict other efforts to increase university participation for students from rural and regional Australia.

In the limited time I have available this evening, I urge the Minister for Education to immediately reconsider the decision, particularly given the impact it has on students who are already undertaking their gap year. The minister has attempted to justify this decision by claiming that more students would be able to access the youth allowance in the future under revised criteria for the income thresholds. Even if that is the case, there should be a guarantee that no students who are currently undertaking a gap year will be worse off under the proposed changes in the budget.

This is a decision remarkable for its arrogance and its contemptuous disregard for the hopes and aspirations of thousands of young Australians. These are the students who followed the rules as they applied when they finished their year 12 studies in 2008. They were told by their principals and careers counsellors, and even advised by Centrelink officers in some instances, that if they took a year off study and earned the $18,000 to $19,000 required under the eligibility criteria they would qualify for the independent rate of youth allowance. What has this government done? It has shattered the dreams of country students, their parents and their teachers midway through the gap year. It has pulled the rug out from under their feet, right when the students were starting to plan for the next move in their careers. If this is the education revolution then it amounts to a kick in the guts for country students. (Time expired)