Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1290

Senator HARRADINE (10.20 a.m.) —When speaking to this motion on 19 May I made the point that due consideration ought to be given by the Government and by the Opposition to the points that were advanced in support of the disallowance by Senator Sowada and, if they would be kind enough, to the points that I was making. I am now even more convinced of the justification for Senator Sowada's motion.

  The disallowance is an attempt to rectify what we see as discrimination, particularly against families who have a number of sons and daughters in secondary or tertiary education. Regulation 51 says that students are not entitled to Austudy that is $1,000 or less per annum. As was indicated in the debate on 19 May, this will impact quite seriously on a family which contains three or four students. In respect of Austudy, this regulation would reduce the income of a family with four students by $4,000, minus $4—in other words, by $3,996. That is not chickenfeed when it comes to a family trying to make ends meet. As I mentioned on 19 May, it does not fit comfortably with the Government's policy—and, indeed, with the policy of the Opposition—and the general desire of the Australian community to encourage young people to acquire skills so that they will be able to obtain jobs and enhance their creative capacities.

  The Government may say, `Well, this particular proposition will not deter persons from pursuing that objective'. It may also say that, in its view, it is too costly to continue the current process of paying on a regular basis that amount up to $1,000 a year. The Government relies fairly heavily on the Chapman report and on an Australian youth survey conducted by DEET in 1990 which showed that when it came to Austudy of $25 or less per week the proportion of parents who said their children needed it to stay at school was rather small.

  It is not apparent from this document whether the parents understood that that $25 per week meant $25 per student or $25 per family. Because of the operation of two factors—the present sibling concession and the operation of regulation 51, which Senator Sowada is seeking to disallow—a family with four students could be affected by as much as $3,996 a year.

  The Government will say, `Well, if two of those students are secondary students, family payments can be claimed in respect of them'. Even so, there would be a gap of around $10 a week. The difference between Austudy and a family payment of $1,000 per annum would be about $10 a week. Families would still be losing roughly $500 a year per student. Then the Government might say, `Well, in respect of those students who are receiving less than $1,000 a year, the operation of the regulations would enable those students to take out a loan of $1,000 a year'. They lose $999 and are told they can get a loan for $1,000. To be quite frank, that is of small comfort. That loan, as we know, will need to be repaid if the student is able to obtain employment. Once the remuneration for that employment has reached about $27,000 a year, then the repayments, as I understand it, start to operate at a rate of about two per cent.

  Those responses by the Government do not in any way deter me from my very strenuous support for Senator Sowada's disallowance motion, particularly as it attempts to rectify what is seen as discrimination against larger families.