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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 741

Mr TEHAN (10:41 AM) —I rise today to talk on the issue of the independent youth allowance and to highlight a report called the Deferring a University Offer in Regional Victoria report of 2010. I also want to comment on Prime Minister Gillard’s humiliating back down on independent youth allowance today. The Deferring a University Offer in Regional Victoria report of 2010 shows that 30 per cent of those who defer do not take up their offer or remain in their course. More than 81 per cent of those who defer are in the two lowest quartiles of socioeconomic status. Only 7.8 per cent of city students deferred in 2010, compared with 15.2 per cent of regional students. As Toni Jenkins from the South West Local Learning and Employment Network highlights, other data indicates that the academic profile of students in our region is just as high as in metro areas. So it is clear that other factors, such as financial hardship are impacting on their outcomes.

What this shows is that regional and rural students are at a disadvantage to their city cousins when it comes to accessing tertiary education. That is why the coalition took a policy to the last election to bring back the independent youth allowance as it was and not have zonal discrimination against inner regional students. Today it would seem that the Gillard government has finally got the message and will bring in the changes to the policy that saved the government $300 million for their budget bottom line but that, sadly, did so at the expense of regional and rural students. That it has taken this long for the government to make this humiliating back down is an absolute disgrace. Regional and rural students have suffered through missing out on accessing a tertiary education while Julia Gillard has over a period of 12 months failed to see the error of errors before reluctantly doing so today. As this report shows, as many as 15 per cent of those who wanted to access a tertiary education deferred doing their course because the government messed up the independent youth allowance. This back down today is a humiliating one for the Labor government. But it is a back down that was needed and that will benefit regional and rural students.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Before calling the next member, I would just gently remind the honourable member for Wannon that he ought to refer to the Prime Minister by her title and not by her actual name.