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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 130

Senator PETER BAUME —I ask the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs whether it is not a fact that, since the Australian Labor Party took office, the increase in the unemployment benefit for those over 18 years has been nearly twice that of the increase in the tertiary education assistance scheme allowance ? Does she not agree that there has been a widening of the gap between these two benefits to the disadvantage of students? Is this not a repudiation of yet another clear election promise? Did not the Minister, when in opposition, describe such a disparity as 'totally irrational and totally indefensible'? I ask whether the Minister stands by this statement she made in 1981, when in opposition:

Whilever there is such a disparity between the level of payment available for unemployment benefit and the level of assistance available for full time students, students from modest backgrounds will from time to time be forced out of universities and tertiary institutions and onto the dole.

The word 'dole' was her word. She further said:

How the Government can possibly defend and maintain that system really defies rational understanding.

How does she defend the ever-widening disparity between these two benefits for students aged 18 years or more?

Senator RYAN —Even though that very garbled series of accusations is quite off the point and totally inaccurate, I quite welcome the question from Senator Baume as to our decisions with regard to tertiary education assistance because it does give me the opportunity to point out a few things with regard to our record in this matter that have obviously escaped the attention of Senator Baume or whoever writes his questions for him. First of all I should point out that the increase announced last night, an increase of 10 per cent in the level of TEAS, is the largest increase in TEAS for several years. I should also point out that the question of the relativity between unemployment benefit and TEAS has been addressed very constructively in the decisions I announced last night. For example, the gap which was nearly $5 a week between the TEAS at home rate and the unemployment benefit for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds will be almost closed by last night's decision. That particular gap at the point of leaving school for a 16-year-old or 17-year-old will now be less than a dollar. The rate for TEAS at home is now in excess of $44 and the youth dole is $45. The additional benefit for the youth dole of $5 will come after six months unemployment. So at the point when the comparison is most relevant, the point at which 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds leave school, that gap has virtually been closed. I thought that Senator Baume might have been able to address himself to that significant step forward.

With regard to the 10 per cent decision last night I point out to Senator Baume , who seems unable to comprehend these things without assistance, that the 10 per cent is significantly in advance of the movements in the consumer price index which have been at 3.9 per cent recently. Also, the income test has been liberalised by 10 per cent. In addition, simplified and revised procedures are expected to assist more than 2,000 students at a cost of more than $5m in a full year. The cost of the new measures is expected to amount to some $48m in a full year. Growth in student numbers and increased benefits will see expenditure on TEAS rise from $232.5m in the last financial year to an estimated $268.9m in 1984-85, an increase of almost 16 per cent. That is a record that this Government is quite happy with.

Senator PETER BAUME —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the Minister my question was not about 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds, it was about students aged 18 years or over. I ask the Minister: Why did she misstate the facts? Why did she not recall that TEAS was increased 20 per cent in the life of the last Fraser Government? Is she not aware that the Budget Papers contain the figures which--

The PRESIDENT —Order! Other matters are now being raised by Senator Baume. I ask him to ask his supplementary question.

Senator PETER BAUME —I ask the Minister: Why will she not come clean upon the gap which exists and which has widened under her Government?

Senator RYAN —I suppose I had better address myself to the ranting of Senator Baume. If one takes into account the increased numbers who will be eligible for TEAS under our liberalised scheme and our increase in the family means test, the actual dollar increases in the amounts flowing to beneficiaries of TEAS, it is quite clear that there has been a record increase in the overall expenditure on TEAS.