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Scholarships concession just one step in the right direction.



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Senator Meg Lees Australian Progressive Alliance Senator for South Australia 17 September 2003

STATEMENT ON GOVERNMENT’S HIGHER EDUACTION PACKAGE

Scholarships Concession Just One Step in the Right Direction

Australian Progressive Alliance Senator, Meg Lees, today welcomed the Federal Government’s concession that fee-exempt scholarships for low-income students will be excluded from the social security income test.

“This is an issue I have raised with the Government and I am very pleased about the result. It will make a significant difference for thousands of Australian students.

“However the Government’s own equity-based scholarships in its higher education reform package must also be exempt from the social security income test. Otherwise they will be virtually worthless.

“Assessing equity based scholarships as income is effectively just re-packaging youth allowance and trapping students in poverty,” said Senator Lees.

“The Government has made much of the new scholarships in its higher education package but with this policy in place they will be virtually worthless. It will be a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

“Regarding the remainder of the package, I will be meeting with the stakeholders over the next few weeks to assess their responses. In particular I will be meeting with student and staff representatives from my home state of South Australia.

“There is $1.4 billion worth of extra taxpayer funds for higher education at stake here. I believe the Senate should seriously look at ways to ensure that money flows, especially to regional and outer metropolitan universities.

“However the money must be spent in a way that ensures Australia’s best and brightest have access to a tertiary education, not just those who can afford to pay.

“The package of bills is extremely complex and will take time to consider in detail.

“The Senate Committee currently inquiring into the package will also need time to consider responses from stakeholder groups now that the legislation is available,” Senator Lees concluded.

Media Requests: Kerrie Thornton 02 6277 3203 or 0438 816 376 www.megsdesk.com