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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6335


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (13:06): The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Student Reform) Bill 2018 will expand access to youth allowance for regional and remote students who move away from home to study. We know that young people in regional Australia are half as likely to have completed a university degree when compared with their urban counterparts. It was a Labor government that introduced the youth allowance regional workforce independence criteria in 2011 as part of our reforms to increase the number of regional students attending university, and we certainly don't need a study to tell us that rural and remote students face extra and sizeable hurdles in undertaking post-secondary education.

The 2017 Universities Australia student finances survey showed that a larger proportion of regional students were experiencing a shortfall between their income and their expenses. Shockingly, it found that almost one in five regional students were regularly going without food or necessities because they couldn't afford them. Many students from regional and remote areas have had to defer studies because they've been unable to continue. According to Universities Australia, under Labor's policies there was an increase in regional and remote undergraduate enrolments of nearly 50 per cent between 2008 and 2016. Regional and remote families won't forget the government's cuts to regional universities and they also won't forget the government's attempt to unleash cuts on regional students—attempts to cut the energy supplement and cuts to Centrelink that have led to long wait times for student payments. But this is the reality for students under this government: cuts to universities, attacks on youth allowance and longer payment and Centrelink wait times.