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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3229

Senator PATTERSON —I draw the attention of the Minister for Finance and Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training to the statement issued by him on Commonwealth Government financial transactions for April 1989. He stated:

Some other areas of outlays are unlikely to achieve the Budget estimate-in particular, Austudy and labour market programs, both due to lower than expected take-up rates . . .

Given the policy of his Government for a skills led recovery, which would enhance Australia's international competitiveness, can the Minister explain why the Government's policy of developing opportunities in this critical area has failed? Is it because, for instance, to get maximum Austudy as a dependent student, one's parents' joint taxable income cannot exceed $16,950?

Senator WALSH —The Austudy take-up rate could vary for a number of reasons, one of which, if I heard correctly, Senator Patterson drew attention to at the end of her question-that is, a person does not get full Austudy unless the household income is below $17,000. Whether the variations that have taken place for this year or outlays being below estimate this year are due to wrong assumptions about the level of incomes in the households from which students come, I do not know. I gather that Senator Patterson is critical of the income level beyond which full Austudy is not paid. I imagine we would all like the income test to be more generous but I suggest to the honourable senator that she have a word with some of her National Party colleagues, who want to pay the full Austudy equivalent, under the assistance to isolated children scheme, to children of people with net assets in excess of $600,000. Her National Party colleagues say it is disgraceful to deny additional educational allowances to them. Should Australia be unfortunate enough to have a coalition government, the more her National Party colleagues succeed with that sort of rorting, the less they will be able to do for low income families who do not have any assets at all. The honourable senator should bear that in mind. It is not unusual for slippage to occur in the implementation of labour market programs. I do not know whether that is the reason for the below budgeted expenditure in that area. I will make inquiries.