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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4123

Senator PATTERSON (3:29 PM) —I want to speak about some of the things that have been mentioned by members on the other side and correct a few things. Senator Lundy made the statement that 48,000 young people were going to be worse off. The opposition keep repeating those sorts of figures and they are not right. There will be 33,000 young people who will receive less.

Senator Denman—and I know she is concerned about young people on the north-west coast of Tasmania—failed to mention when saying that young people in that area do not stay on after year 10 the reasons why. One of the reasons we developed a culture of young people not staying on after year 10 was that it was better for them and easier for them to go on the dole, to take unemployment benefits, than it was to stay at school. There was no incentive. Young people used to say to me, `Why should I stay at school when I can get more money on unemployment benefits?' For 13 years Labor left that system in place.

Also, because two different departments administered the scheme, when young people moved between receiving unemployment benefits and Austudy and back again because their circumstances changed, they were sometimes in receipt of overpayments. They were then chased up. As Senator Tierney said, there was not a seamless relationship between those allowances. We have streamlined it, making it easier for young people to understand the situation they are in. They are less likely to be in receipt of overpayments and, therefore, less likely to be in trouble in relation to overpayments.

Senator Denman did not talk about the fact that we have increased the number of apprenticeships. In 1995 there were 138,000 apprenticeships under Labor. We now have 182,000 apprenticeships. That goes towards meeting the needs of some of those students who do not want to go on to years 11 and 12 at school and those who, after years 11 and 12, do not want to go on to tertiary education and would like to seek training in another form through an apprenticeship. We have the schools to work program: $21 million to encourage and assist young people move from school to work. That program did not exist under Labor. We have an Australian Student Traineeship Foundation: $25 million has been allocated to the foundation to improve young people's access to work after they leave school. We also have the jobs pathway program. They are all initiatives of this government in the last 2½ years to assist young people.

Professor Bob Birrell in his study entitled `Equity implications of the new youth allowance for higher education students' states that the youth allowance will actually significantly improve eligibility for student financial assistance compared to the current arrangements under the Labor Party's Austudy. The parental means test that senators opposite were so quick to criticise is substantially more generous under the youth allowance arrangements.

As I said before, we believe that young unemployed should not be treated more generously than students. It is something that the community has asked us about over and over. The student community has been asking over and over, `Why are we discriminated against?' We argue that they should be treated the same—and the youth allowance does just that. It is wrong to pay young people more to be unemployed than to be students. As I said before, the youth allowance parental means test is actually far more generous than the old parental means test for Austudy. There are other benefits under the new youth allowance scheme. For example, students will gain from access to rent assistance of up to $75 per fortnight for the very first time. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for the debate has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.