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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1596

Senator CHANEY —My question is to the Minister for Education and follows the question asked by Senator Newman and not answered by the Minister. I remind the Minister that what was asked of her yesterday had nothing to do with Austudy. Senator Newman asked her yesterday what was the estimated cost to the Government of the $250 tertiary education administration fee being paid by the Government for Australian Capital Territory teachers attending courses. The Minister in her reply, which raised the question of Austudy, and the position of people receiving Austudy, said among other things:

The students who have their $250 paid for them are students in receipt of Austudy, and the only students in receipt of Austudy are full time students who meet the family income test. So there is no way that anybody employed as a teacher would be in receipt of Austudy, nor would such a person be exempted from the charge . . .

She went on to say:

So, under the policy as it exists, it is not possible for someone employed as a teacher to be having the $250 charge paid through my Department . . .

Senator Ryan —Through Austudy.

Senator CHANEY —Through Austudy. But in fact that was not the question. I ask the Minister: Does she now agree that she misled the Senate yesterday; that she said there was no way that this $250 could be paid, when Estimates documents which a Minister would normally have cleared have come to this Senate from her Department? Does she admit that it is clear now that it was intended to make payments for these student teachers? Will she now agree that she has misled the Senate and will she apologise for her error?

Senator RYAN —As Senator Chaney aided the Senate by reading out the answer that I gave yesterday, the Senate will be aware that what I said yesterday is right-that the only people having their administration charge paid through Austudy are those in receipt of Austudy benefits and no full time Commonwealth public servant can be in receipt of such benefits. To the extent that it went, that answer was correct. I have acknowledged that further information has now come to me that decisions have been taken at officer level that the charge can be paid where it is a condition of employment. However, I am seeking advice on having that decision reversed or not implemented and I will be assisted in this matter by my colleague the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh.