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Govt must come clean on fate of Student Financial Supplement Scheme.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Higher Education 10 October 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/726

Govt must come clean on fate of Student Financial Supplement Scheme

The Australian Democrats today condemned the Government’s suggestion that it may close the Student Financial Supplement Scheme even if the Senate votes to keep it.

Democrats’ Higher Education spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said it would be an abuse of process if the Government circumvents the Senate’s decision and uses a non-legislative option to close the Scheme down.

“Parliament has legislated for the Scheme and any changes to it should also be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“As a general principle, anything affecting a person’s rights or entitlements should be enshrined in legislation.

“The Government must put an end to this uncertainty and let students know where they stand as soon as possible.

“The many students who rely on this Scheme in order to survive while studying are increasingly concerned about whether they will receive their entitlements beyond the end of the year.

“The Family and Community Services (Closure of Student Financial Supplement Scheme) Bill 2003 is due to be debated in the Senate next week.

“The Democrats will move to protect students who are currently receiving the Scheme from losing their entitlements if it is closed.

“My amendment will ensure that existing recipients are able to continue to receive the financial supplement until the end of their study.

“While the Democrats have repeatedly expressed concerns about the inequitable nature of this Scheme, we recognise there are many students who rely on it.

“Students simply cannot afford to survive on the current rates of income support, and for many students, taking out these loans has been their only option.

“Accordingly, these students should be protected - both from the Scheme being closed down legislatively, and from the underhanded option of simply doing so administratively.

“I call on the Government to give a commitment that they will do so,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

The move by Senator Stott Despoja to ‘grandfather’ existing students from closure of the Scheme has been endorsed by the NUS and Student Financial Advisers Network.

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