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Transcript of interview with Kate O'Toole: Triple J, Hack: 26 August 2009: Youth Allowance.



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The Hon Julia Gillard MP 

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations 

Minister for Social Inclusion 

Deputy Prime Minister 

26 August, 2009  

Transcript 

Triple J â€ Hack â€ 530PM Wednesday 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW TRIPLE J - HACK 530PM WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST 2009

ISSUES: Youth Allowance

KATE O’TOOLE: Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, hello.

JULIA GILLARD: Hello, how are you?

KATE O’TOOLE: I’m well. Now is this change that was announced last night, this six month delay, an admission that you actually made a mistake with the start date initially?

JULIA GILLARD: What the Government’s trying to do here and I think from my discussions with students, even as recently as the start of this week, people understand the direction of our reforms. Everybody knows an example of someone who lives in quite a wealthy family, lives at home but qualified for Youth Allowance. You know, families that earn $200,000, $300,000, and I think people understand that we can do better than that and we can have a fairer system than that. And so that’s what the Government’s been trying to achieve.

KATE O’TOOLE: And that’s what people were talking about when they spoke to you in May though that they were just hoping that you would change that start date. Are the changes that would benefit…

JULIA GILLARD: To be frank, I think the debate’s moved on since May. One of the problems when we first announced this is the way Youth Allowance has been working for a long period of time now is that the family income test for getting a benefit has been so unrealistically low that the received message to students was the only way you had any hope of getting a benefit was to take a gap year and work.

I think in the time since May, because we’ve been having a dialogue with students and the community around the country, the message has got through that we’ve changed the family means test so tens of thousands of more students will qualify. So I think that that’s been good. What that means is that concerns have then sort of come down to what about the people caught between the old and the new system. So we’ve worked our way….

KATE O’TOOLE: Which is what that system was about, in terms of that delay of six months but the changes, in order to pay for that, the other changes that would benefit students are being delayed as well until 2012. Is it fair that other students suffer because you got the start date for part of the plan wrong?

JULIA GILLARD: I’m not sure I’m going to accept your characterisation. What we’re doing here is creating a fairer system and it has to be a Budget neutral package and we’ve been clear about that from the start.

The Federal Government, on behalf of taxpayers, invests billions of dollars literally in Youth Allowance and we’ve got to be prudent with every taxpayer’s dollar. We announced a huge package of reforms in the May Budget for universities which have been underfunded for a decade now - that’s an additional $5 billion investment in higher education and our innovation system, so a lot of focus, a lot of reforms to universities.

But we always said the Youth Allowance package would have to be a Budget neutral one. So having worked our way through the community and explained our reforms which we understand weren’t…

KATE O’TOOLE: So basically it’s just too bad.

JULIA GILLARD: Sorry, if I could finish my sentence, which basically weren’t fully understood on Budget night. But I think having worked through, when people have seen the full changes, a set of concerns have fallen away. But it’s come down to this concern about students who were in school last year, on a gap year this year, going to university next year and needing to move. And to keep that Budget neutral we have made a change to…

KATE O’TOOLE: We understand that, that’s how you’ve been able to afford it. As you’ve mentioned before, it’s a Budget neutral package.

JULIA GILLARD: If I can just address your question of fairness, what we’ve done is we’ve pushed back - we want students to be able to keep more of the income they earn when they work part time at uni. We had hoped to bring that change in 2011, now it will be brought in 2012. So that element will still be there in the system but it will be delivered later to enable us to make this difference for gap year students.

KATE O’TOOLE: Sure. A lot of uni courses only let you defer for one year. Doesn’t that mean that students hoping to enrol in these courses and qualify for independence for Youth Allowance - doesn’t that mean that they’ll be disadvantaged, they won’t even be able to get into these courses because they need to defer for more than the allowed 12 months?

JULIA GILLARD: Well that’s actually less and less true. When we had the roundtable earlier this week in Canberra, we had a representative of Universities Australia there who advised students who had come along that we’ve got 38 universities in this country. 28 of

them are moving on their deferment policy so that it will be easier to get two year deferments. So this is becoming something than universities are responding to and facilitating.

But the prime way of becoming eligible for Youth Allowance under our new system for young people who are going to university is on the basis on their family income and tens of thousands more will be eligible based on that family income. And of course over time we’re going to phase down the age of independence. It’s 25 now and it will be coming down over time to 22.

KATE O’TOOLE: There’s a whole raft of changes and I’d advise anybody in that position to make sure you look up the details thoroughly because there is a whole bunch of changes. Thanks very much for speaking with us today.

JULIA GILLARD: There is. If I can say to people, look up the details, a whole bunch of changes but overall, 100,000 students are going to benefit - more than 60,000 from becoming eligible for the first time for Youth Allowance and more than 30,000 by getting more than they would've in Youth Allowance. So overall, a lot more students getting support.

KATE O’TOOLE: Thanks very much for speaking with us today, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you.

ENDS.

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