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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 703

Senator VANSTONE —I refer the Minister for Education to her answer to a question last week in which she indicated that to alleviate distress caused by delays in Austudy payments students in urgent need could have their application moved, colloquially speaking, `closer to the top of the pile'. I ask the Minister: Firstly, is she the Minister responsible for the blunder-one might call it a big blunder-of creating the situation which necessitated the introduction of this emergency relief measure? Secondly, how has the availability of this relief measure been made known to the applicants? Has it been made known to all applicants not yet in receipt of their Austudy payments? How many students have availed themselves of this measure? What number or proportion of applications remain outstanding? Last but not least, has the Minister received a letter from a constituent in the Australian Capital Territory pointing out that her son cannot pay any fees-it may be of interest to the Minister to know-until his Austudy payment comes through?

Senator RYAN —I have said in the Senate on a number of occasions-obviously Senator Vanstone has not heard or understood-that students in receipt of Austudy will get the $250 administration charge in their first Austudy payment. Many already have it.

Senator Chaney —If they do not starve to death in the meantime.

Senator RYAN —The $250 is not meant to buy food; it is meant to pay the administration charge. It is given to students for that purpose. Institutions understand this and by and large have agreed that students will pay that $250 when they receive it from the Government via the Austudy payment. With regard to delays, I gave a very comprehensive answer pointing out that where there are delays in Austudy payments it is usually because the original information given by the students has not been accurate or complete and the Department has to go back to the students to get additional information. When that additional information is provided the forms are then assessed in the appropriate way.

I pointed out also that, if a student is in extreme circumstances, he or she can explain this to an officer of the Department of Education and have the application accelerated. I am advised that that has happened in a number of cases. I will get the precise number for Senator Vanstone at the earliest opportunity.