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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1524


Senator VANSTONE —My question is to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that the maximum personal income permitted before Austudy benefit entitlements decrease remains at $2,000 a year, the figure it was in 1983. Since average weekly earnings have risen by 32 per cent since March 1983, does the Minister agree that failure to increase the cut-off point on the personal income test means a contraction of eligibility and access? Will the Minister inform the House why the personal income test was not increased this year when other Austudy income test levels, namely the parental and spouse levels, were raised by 5 per cent? Does the Minister agree that this has contributed to an erosion of the real value of benefits, especially to those seeking independent status for Austudy?


Senator RYAN —The facts about the level of personal income allowable before there is some loss of Austudy benefits as set out in Senator Vanstone's question are correct. However, I remind Senator Vanstone that, when the Government is working out the way in which it can assist students, it has to balance a number of things. One of the very important decisions which the Government took a couple of years ago and which it is now implementing is the increase in the level of Austudy benefits. So while it is the case that the level of personal income allowable before Austudy benefits would be lost has not been increased in recent years, the actual level of benefit itself has been increased-quite significantly for some categories of students. Also, the family income test, which affects the majority of students in receipt of income, has been liberalised and expanded in its effect in a number of ways. All in all, although there has been no liberalisation of the personal incomes test, there has been a net benefit in the level of Austudy for those students who receive it.