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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4121

Senator EGGLESTON (3:19 PM) —I have listened patiently to Senator Lundy tell us that the Liberal Party has done nothing for the youth of Australia and criticise Senator Newman for saying what good news the youth allowance is. Senator Lundy, after you hear what I am going to say, I would expect you to get a bell and rush around Parliament House saying, `The youth allowance is here. This is the best thing that has ever happened to Australian youth.' I assure you, Senator Lundy, the news is all good and very positive.

Let us look at what the youth allowance does for the youth of Australia. This is not a savings measure. By introducing the youth allowance the government is helping young people by making income support arrangements simpler and more flexible. The youth allowance actually replaces five payments with one and reduces 13 different rates of payment to five. Customers will no longer be cancelled and have to reclaim different payments for minor changes in circumstances. All of these are very good and positive things, Senator Lundy, and I am sure you are already sending your staff to get that bell.

The youth allowance will be more effective in responding to the changing labour market by taking into account the full range of training and employment activities available for young people. In addition, the youth allowance removes disincentives to study caused by differences in income support arrangements for young people under 21 years of age. For younger students in particular it creates a real incentive to complete year 12 or equivalent qualifications before they look for work. That is a very good thing because we all know that the people who do not complete year 12 are more likely by a factor of some 2½ to go onto long-term unemployment benefits. The youth allowance reinforces the government's message that families should support young people until they have achieved financial independence.

What I would like to concentrate on more than anything else is the advantages of the youth allowance for regional Australia. Coming from a regional area, I have a particular interest in regional Australia. Students and young Australians from rural and regional areas will be the big winners under the youth allowance. For the first time, students will be able to access rent assistance up to $74.80 per fortnight. This is currently available only to the young unemployed. Young people from remote areas will benefit from an extra $17.50 per fortnight by way of a remote area allowance. People under 18 years of age living away from home for study or training purposes will have further gains, with their payments boosted to $265.50 per fortnight to bring them in line with the over 18-year-olds.

The parental means test that is being applied is aimed at helping low income families and in particular low income families in regional areas, which I am sure is a policy Senator Lundy would have to agree with. For the first time young people in the bush will no longer have a financial disincentive to study or to go into some form of skills acquisition. They will have real incentive to further their career opportunities, incentives which never existed during the 13 dismal years when the ALP was in government.

There is no doubt from looking at the comparative policies of the previous Labor government and the enlightened and positive policies for young people under the Liberal-National coalition government that the ALP would rather see young Australians on the dole than in education or training to improve their career prospects. I think the ALP should tell the 153,750 young Australians who will get more money under this scheme why they think it is wrong to give incentives to young people to take up education or training to improve their chances of getting a job. That, I am sure you will agree, Senator Lundy, is all good news. (Time expired)