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Transcript radio interview with Matthew Abraham: ABC 891 Adelaide: 9 June 2009: Youth Allowance; award modernisation.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

9 June, 2009


Transcript - Radio interview ABC 891 Adelaide - 9 June 2009 - Youth Allowance; award modernisation


ISSUES: Youth Allowance; award modernisation

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Julia Gillard joins 891 Morning, Good Morning to you.

JULIA GILLARD: Good Morning.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Minister, are you having any second thoughts about the fairness of these amendments to Youth Allowance?

JULIA GILLARD: These amendments are all about fairness. We were told by the Bradley Review into Higher Education, a review conducted by a great South Australian Denise Bradley, that the current student financing system is poorly targeted and that there were examples of families earning 3 and 400,000 dollars a year, who were manipulating the system and getting student income support.

The Bradley Review said to us, we needed to work through this and make sure that every Government dollar for student financing was going to students who needed it the most and that is the impact of these changes, to better target student allowance, to students who need it the most.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: So you say that at the moment, rich kids are rorting the system?

JULIA GILLARD: Well what’s happened with the current student financing system is there’s sort of two ways of getting it. You can get student income support because your

family income falls within the income threshold, or you can get it by qualifying as independent through working.

Now the family income cut-off points have become so unrealistically low, that the message received by students is basically unless you pass the work test and become supposedly independent of your family income, there is no way of getting student allowance. What we’ve done with these changes, is we’ve focused on family income, we’ve changed the income test, so families with students, you know, even if their income is up to $140,000, will be able to benefit from Youth Allowance and if you benefit from student financing, then you’ll also get our Student Start-up Scholarship. So we believe that’s a better way of targeting to the children and students most in need.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Do you concede though, that by the way this is being brought in, putting aside the merits of what you’ve done, but the way it’s being introduced has wrecked the plans of a lot of students who made the decisions, they’ve spoke to course councillors at the beginning of the year, they’re halfway through their gap year, they find out in a Budget move, that they’ve effectively wasted a year. They may as well have been at uni, you know, flipping burgers and trying to make do.

JULIA GILLARD: What I would say to many of those students is that I can understand that they’d be anxious and keen to find out all of the details of these changes but there’s been a lot of misinformation around, and when I’ve talked to a number of those students, either on the talk back or when I’ve looked at the letters that have come to my office, it’s clear to me that many of those students, who have concluded that now they aren’t eligible will in fact be eligible because of their family income, because their family incomes will fit in with the new family income threshold.

So I would say to any students in that position, before you conclude that you’ve missed out, make sure that you get online, that you look at all of the information, that you have a talk to your parents about family income…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But there is a retrospective nature to this. Do you agree? I mean that’s generally not a good thing in legislation. It’s a retrospective nature because it effects people have made commitments and decisions their lives at the beginning of the year, and the rules have been changed halfway through the year.

JULIA GILLARD: Well it’s certainly a change that’s coming into effect for the next academic year, the next calendar year…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But it affects students who have made a decision this year. So have a gap year and work maybe…

JULIA GILLARD: But it’s coming into effect for the next academic year, the next calendar year…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Based on what they’ve earned this year.

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, I understand that some students will have made arrangements this year on the basis of the current rules but my message to those students would be, have a good look at the changes. Many people, because the received message used to be, that the only way

of getting student income support was to work and qualify as supposedly independent, because you know, everybody had given up on getting it through their family income because the family income levels were so low.

Because that was the received message and people have heard about the changes to the work test, they somehow think that they’re not going to be eligible. Many of them will be eligible…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Minister, is this one of those where you’ve, you’ve… we had this on the award restructuring we were interviewing you, you were quite adamant that there were no problems with it, that it could be catered for in the system. Within less then a week you’ve had to make changes to protect the cleaning industry. Are you across some of the detail? I mean you’re a very busy minister, you’ve got lots of arrows in the quiver, are you not across some of these details and the fact that some people are falling through the system?

JULIA GILLARD: I’m certainly well across the details of the student financing changes and of the award modernisation changes. What I was going to say to you about student financing is at the end of the day, these reforms will mean that more students get income support, then under the current system. So I think that that is very important to note.

More students are going to benefit. More families are going to see the kids, who leave the family home each day to go to go to university, or indeed re-locate to study, get benefits then before. On the award modernisation, what I said to you last time I talked to you is that there were proceedings at the Commission, through our industrial umpire happening on transitional arrangements that I had been in a set of discussions with employer organisations.

We did work through those set of discussions, as it affected restaurants and catering and in view of those discussions I did modify our award modernisation request. That’s a process that I have been through before. We are saying to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, we want simple modern awards; we want them transitioned in a sensible and measured way. That’s why there’s the 5 year transition in period. We are listening to employers and to unions as this process goes through…


JULIA GILLARD: … and I have responded from time to time to what I thought were legitimate issues raised by employer organisations and indeed raised by unions and from time to time I have amended our award modernisation request to reflect those reasonable claims.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Julia Gillard, back on the youth allowance, we’re getting a number of emails from out listeners who live in the country, saying that they are particularly affected by these changes. Some of the families are saying; well we have to move to Adelaide in order to support out kids go through university?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, can I say to the families who are sending you those emails, that I am aware, particularly in regional Australia, that there has been a lot of misinformation about these changes. I’ve has some of those discussions on regional radio to try and get better information to people. The basic point is this; regional Australia, people who live in country towns, tend, if you look at general statistics, to earn less then people who live in the city.

Therefore, any change that better targets income support to low income families is going to be better for regional Australia. And, for students in regional Australia qualifying for student income support, they’ll get the Student Income Support, they’ll get our Start-up Scholarship as well as $2254 each year and if they need to move to study, they’ll get a Relocation Scholarship of $4000 in the first year and $1000 each thereafter. So, those big transition costs, when you have to move from a country town, to Adelaide to study, to help you with those big transition costs in your first year of study, you could qualify for 6200 odd dollars to help you through.

That, I think, is a considerable benefit, for a kid who has to move to go to Adelaide University or Flinders University or the University of SA.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: And finally Minister, did you pay for your degree?

JULIA GILLARD: I’m from the generation before the Higher Education Contribution Scheme so I’m a little bit older then that.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: So you got free education, free university education?

JULIA GILLARD: There were no fees and I pre-date the Higher Education Contribution Scheme. That’s saying something about my age more then anything else I suspect (laughs)... But what I would say about our current university system, is that the Higher Education Contribution Scheme is having students meet some of their course costs through deferred income loans, was a Labor Government change to the system, it’s financed an expansion of our higher education system which means more kids from more backgrounds have got to go. We are going to expand again. In the recent Budget we’re investing $5.4 Billion in higher education and innovation. More kids again will get to go to university.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: That’s Julia Gillard. And we do thank her for joining us. Now the line had dropped out, but I had to say this. Julia Gillard, she’s probably the busiest in the Federal Cabinet. Federal Minister for Education, she’s a Federal Minister for Workplace Reform and she’s the Deputy Prime Minister and is acting Prime Minister when the PM is away. She called back, to let us know that she hadn’t hung up on us.

And we said; no, no, we’re quite used to that. (Laughs). No. So we do appreciate that and we just said we’d tidy up the end of that interview so you wouldn’t hear the dropped line. But we do thank Julia Gillard, Federal Minister for Education, for talking to us.


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