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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 383

Senator VANSTONE —I refer the Minister for Education to a telegram sent to her last week by Elaine Darling, the Australian Labor Party member for Lilley, which began:

Crisis situation developing in south east Queensland as social security benefits have been cut while Austudy has not come through. Young people in flats with no rent allowance could end up in the street.

Is the Minister aware that this crisis situation exists not only in south-east Queensland but right around the country? What bungling ineptitude in administration caused students who properly notified the Department of Social Security of intending participation in Austudy not to have their Austudy funds available? Finally, what action has the Minister taken or will she take to eliminate the delays in Austudy payments?

Senator RYAN —I am sure that Mrs Darling will be very pleased at the publicity Senator Vanstone has given to her very assiduous attempts on behalf of her constituents to ensure that they do not suffer any delays. I must say that I find it very heartening that our back bench senators, our people out in the electorates, are working so hard on behalf of their constituents to make sure that any possible problem is anticipated. It is true that persons cannot receive two benefits at once. If a person passes from the status of being unemployed to the status of a student he or she should move from social security to Austudy. Some delays have been reported, but I am happy to explain to honourable senators that, if they know of any person suffering severe difficulties as a result of that, they can advise that person to go to a Commonwealth education office and ask to have the application for Austudy accelerated through the system. We have been able to do that in a number of cases and when specific--

Senator Vanstone —Not in my constituency.

Senator RYAN —Senator Vanstone has said that is not so in her constituency. I suppose that Senator Vanstone has not been as assiduous as Mrs Darling and has not brought particular cases to the attention of the Commonwealth education authorities. There are emergency procedures for students who are moving off the unemployment benefit and on to Austudy. Any senator or member seeking to assist a person in those circumstances should contact the regional or State Commonwealth education office and ask whether those special procedures can be utilised.