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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12049

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (15:35): I continue my speech in the second reading debate on the Social Security Amendment (Student Income Support Reforms) Bill 2011. Education is the greatest gift that we can give our children. Education in the year 2011 should be something that is equitable throughout Australia. Sadly, this is not the case.

Regional Australian students are finding it very difficult to attend university. We are just seeing the changes to the social security amendments for inner regional students. Those change have not returned things to the way they were prior to the changes made by the now Prime Minister when she was education minister, but they have returned some form of equity into the system.

There is a case to be made for a regional student access scheme available to all regional students. If regional Australia is going to take its place and continue to grow and prosper, it is going to need young people with suitable qualifications in agriculture, food production, agronomy, engineering, mining and health—all those vitally important professions. Regional Australia is in desperate need of professional workers in those areas. We are going to make sure we can keep up the supply in the years to come, and the best way to do that is by growing our own, encouraging regional students to gain proper qualifications, enabling them to return to the regions and grow regional Australia.

In closing, it needs to be pointed out again that the reason these amendments needed to be made was because of the thoughtless, uncaring actions of the Prime Minister when she was education minister, ripping the ability for regional students to attend university. From seeing in other government departments the farce that was the RDA, Regional Development Australia—regional Australia was ignored in that funding—it is clear that this government has very little understanding or compassion for the people and students of regional Australia.

The Prime Minister brought in these changes when she was education minister, and in my time as a member of parliament I have never seen an issue cause such heartache and so much grief. I have had thousands of people sign petitions; I have had school students manning stalls in the main streets of towns right across my electorate trying to gain support to have youth allowance restored. This is a victory for the coalition, and I pay tribute to my colleagues Fiona Nash, Darren Chester, Christopher Pyne and Nola Marino, who led this charge. But it is a hollow victory when this change should have been made in the first place.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Before calling the honourable member for Gippsland, I would remind the member for Parkes that he ought to refer to other honourable members by their titles and not by their names.