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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 667

Senator TEAGUE (5.33 p.m.) —There is one argument that Senator Schacht put that I feel I have a duty to refute. It is only the semblance of an argument and it does not stand up to careful examination. I do this because Senator Schacht has not yet conceded that his good colleague in the other place, Mr Free, will immediately accept the request of the committee. It is because I believe that these speeches are likely to be taken into consideration that I respond to Senator Schacht's semblance of an argument.

  He said, `I grant you that we have made compounded mistakes. I grant you that 100 families have been misled. I grant that there is merit in the needs of these families for their sons and daughters to study at university. I grant all of that. I was even on a farm myself.' Senator Schacht mentioned emotion and sentiment and he also mentioned my point about justice. But he said, `This is the thin edge of the wedge. What about the Collins Street farmers and all the lawyers in town who will use this precedent to argue against the assets test being applied in all sorts of other areas?'

  I put to the committee very clearly that there is a remedy built into this measure, and the remedy is this: as soon as the wool industry picks up; as soon as the rural recession is over; as soon as the pockets of recession that remain in the cities are no more, the incomes of these families will rise above the threshold, they will go back to normal and the income test alone will rule them out of eligibility for Austudy, or it will diminish the level of Austudy that would be applicable to those applicants.

  In any event, if the economic circumstances of families improve, it will rule them out from getting a health care card. All we need to see is improvement in the economy in these pockets in the city and in most areas of the country and this so-called thin edge of the wedge will be cut off. I put it to Senator Schacht, to Mr Free, and to their colleagues in the Australian government that no argument has been put forward by the minister in this chamber that is able to be sustained. There is no thin edge of the wedge here. There is justice in what we are asking.

  We are not arguing this just because compounding mistakes were made by the Labor government in this area and 100 people were misled. There is justice and merit in this. This chamber has ruled this way in its resolutions over recent years while we have had the rural recession.

  I support entirely all of the appeals made by Senator Boswell. I ask Senator Schacht to imagine this whole gallery behind me filled with 400 people: 100 students, their mums and dads, grandma who lives with them at home and the younger brothers and sisters. They fill the whole gallery. Senator Schacht has the gall, against the justice of the argument, to say, `Despite us, the Labor government, making mistakes—we misled you all—we are going to deny you.' I regard it as part of the responsibility of this chamber that we ensure that this amendment is passed and that this request is met in the other place by Senator Schacht's ministerial colleagues.