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Transcript of interview with Paula Tapiolas: Youth Allowance; Health workforce; Award modernisation.



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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 

ISSUES: Youth Allowance; Health workforce; Award modernisation 

PAULA TAPIOLAS: Some good news this morning for those rural students caught up in the tax changes to the Federal Government Youth Allowance. The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made some changes that mean students working a gap year so that they can afford to go to uni won’t miss out on the next uni year. And we were speaking to the Isolated Children’s Parents Association about this last week, and they mentioned there were thousands of students who would have been affected.

But it’s come at a cost. Julia Gillard has decided to delay changing the amounts that university students can earn before their assistance payments cut out. In fact, students will have to wait another 18 months before they can earn more before they lose their payment. Neither the Greens, nor the Opposition like the plan, and the Greens say they will move amendments to the bill.

I’m with the Deputy Prime Minister. Ms Gillard, this move will be a relief to many rural students. What’s your message to them?

JULIA GILLARD: My message to rural students is we want them to think about going to university. The biggest problem with the current student financing system is during the years we’ve had it, the number of people from rural and regional Australia going to university has gone down. We want to turn that around. The new system will be a fairer system, but I have become concerned about the students caught in the middle of the old system and the new system and that’s why we’ve moved to make a difference for students on a gap year this year. So the students who were at school last year who made a decision to take a gap year this year to go to university next year, they will be entitled under the old rules.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: You have made some delays to payments to general students as a result. Is this robbing Peter to pay Paul?

JULIA GILLARD: Well the Government’s got to be very careful about every dollar it spends. We’re talking, in student financing, about billions of dollars of government money. We always said this needed to be a package that was Budget neutral, that is that we were using the same amount of money, but making every dollar work harder to better support

students. So to deal with the circumstances of students caught between the old and the new systems, we have made a change which delays the change on personal student income until the middle of 2012. What we want to do in the long term is increase the amount of income students can earn part time before they lose any of their Youth Allowance that has been delayed to finance these changes for students on a gap year now.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: The students say that the problem is that they will have to work for 18 months to qualify, but unis will only let students defer for one year. So can you make any compensations or any changes there?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ve talked to universities and most particularly when I have, the student round table in Canberra earlier this week, a representative of Universities Australia came and universities are responding to hold places available for students longer. Of our 38 universities, Universities Australia reported 28 had moved to make a difference so that students could defer for two years if they wanted to.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: You’ll need Opposition or Green support for these changes, and the Greens say that they’ll move amendments. Are you prepared to make changes?

JULIA GILLARD: Well this is the package that should go through the Senate. Of course when we go to the Senate, we hear all sorts of views from the various sides of politics. For example, the Liberal Party has moved amendments that would rip $700 million out of our new scholarship program. Well that’s ridiculous, to take $700 million away from scholarships. We’ll be saying to the Senate that this is a fair package and to give students certainty it should be passed without delay.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: I’m with the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Just onto another matter, the issue of doctors and nurses shortages is crucial in our area of Queensland and today I’m reading in the Australian that the health workforce Australia plan, which was promised to start in May hasn’t started. Why is that?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we’ve already made some changes to support the health workforce. The Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon and I as Minister for Education, have made changes to encourage people to go and study nursing, and then of course to go to areas that they’re needed. We’ll continue making changes to the health workforce, but we’re also in a big health reform process, being led by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health who are going around and having consultative forums at public hospitals around the country.

I think everybody understands that our health system is a complex system; it’s under pressure now and that pressure is going to increase as our population gets older. We want to get it right for the long term and that’s why we’re involved in a consultative process about health. But in the meantime we’ll continue to make changes which will support increased health workforce and increased provision in regional areas.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: Well next month was the month for international recruitment for doctors to start. Is that still going to happen?

JULIA GILLARD: These are matters for the Minister for Health, but of course we continue to manage the health workforce and try and increase the numbers of health professionals

where they’re needed the most, even whilst we work on the long term arrangements for health.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: And on the issue of award modernisation, our local horticulture growers say they’re waiting for decisions so that they can get on with their planting. When are growers going to get some certainty on this?

JULIA GILLARD: We’ve been in an intensive discussion with representatives of people in horticulture, including the Australian Industry Group and others. I understand that there are concerns about the award.

Of course we’ve got to remember that ending up with simple, modern awards was a big demand of employers over decades. We’ve got an awards system now with more than 4,000 awards. We’re simplifying that through the industrial umpire the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to around 130 awards, so it’s going to be much simpler. We’re in a two year period where the Commission is working on drawing up those awards.

From time to time I have varied my award modernisation request if it’s become apparent that there’s a need for action, and I’m certainly listening closely to the representatives of the horticultural sector and I’ll make a decision about these and some other award modernisation matters as soon as possible. But obviously when we’re setting awards for the long term, we want to work through a process and get it right.

PAULA TAPIOLAS: They’ve got a lot of planting to do though, would you tell them they’d need to wait months or weeks for a decision?

JULIA GILLARD: People should go about their planting as they would have anyway. They shouldn’t worry about this; they should go about their planting. We’ve got to remember we’re talking about awards that would come into operation on the 1st of January next year and changed conditions would have a full five year phase in period. So we’re talking about sensible, measured change over a five year period, so people should not be alarmed that something is going to change and change quickly and suddenly. These are new awards with full five years phase in periods

PAULA TAPIOLAS: Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, thank you.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you very much.

ENDS.

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