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Monday, 7 September 2009
Page: 5709


Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (1:57 PM) —Today we are here debating the level of financial assistance we should provide to Australian kids so that they can go to university. So how do you think a clever nation would deal with helping their kids get to university? Well, a clever nation would make it easier for their kids to get to university, not harder. But the Rudd government is doing the opposite and making it harder for thousands of our kids to get to university. There is nothing clever about that. This is wrong. The Rudd government should not be making it harder for thousands of kids to get to university even though some other kids will get assistance through scholarships. You should not be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Rudd government know they got it wrong; that is why at the last minute they have exempted those kids that have taken a gap year already. But exempting this year’s gap students does nothing to fix the same problem for all those kids taking a gap year in future years. The Rudd government wants an education revolution but it is in danger of encouraging an education revolt by making it harder for our kids to get to university.

Even though the proposed change in this bill will result in more or some kids getting a scholarship, this will come at a huge cost because it will rip away assistance from other kids, and that is wrong and it is un-Australian. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an education revolution. So even though, by exempting this year’s gap students, the government have shown that they know they have got the policy wrong, they are now playing wedge politics by only bringing on one of the two bills that affect the level of support our kids get while studying at university.

The Higher Education Support Amendment (2009 Budget Measures) Bill 2009 which is before us now is directly linked to the forthcoming Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009, which deals with, among other things, the controversial and highly unpopular changes to youth allowance. Clearly, these two bills are directly linked and it is ridiculous that we are not debating them together. That is a shame. The Higher Education Support Amendment (2009 Budget Measures) Bill abolishes existing Commonwealth scholarships while the Social and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill provides for their replacement. I find it absurd that the government will not debate the two bills together. In fact, not only is the Rudd government not willing to have these two bills debated together; the Rudd government does not even have the guts to put all of its changes before the parliament.

Debate interrupted.