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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 4979


Senator PATTERSON (2.25 p.m.) —The coalition has an amendment after clause 6, which is the same as the amendment standing in the name of the Democrats. The coalition will withdraw its amendment and support that to be moved by the Democrats. This amendment will eliminate an unfair retrospective element from this provision. In saying that we will support the Democrats' amendment, let me put on the record that both the shadow minister for social security, Mr Ruddock, and the honourable member for Fisher, Mr Slipper, expressed their concerns about the retrospective element of this provision when the bill was being debated in the House of Representatives.

  The coalition does not oppose the provision overall. It will mean greater equity between student families that receive prescribed education scheme payments and other families. However, we recognise that student families have made financial plans taking this benefit into account and in some cases, as I said in the second reading debate, it may jeopardise their studies if this benefit were taken away from them in the middle of their courses.

  The financial savings from this initiative are minuscule—some $0.4 million this financial year and $0.8 million next financial year. If some students withdrew from their courses there would be a cost involved in that anyway. Removing the retrospective element has an even smaller impact on savings.