darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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December 21, 2012

Regional students will get a better deal if The Nationals are in a position to form a Coalition Government after the next Federal election according to Gippsland MP Darren Chester.

Mr Chester’s comments come after Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans deliberately misled regional students over the Coalition’s income support policies after they received their Victorian Curriculum of Education (VCE) results this week.

Mr Chester said Minister Evans had taken comments made by Shadow Minister for Universities and Research Brett Mason out of context to scare regional families.

Shadow Minister Mason told the Australian Financial Review that ‘as part of its commitment to improving student support, the Coalition will review payments to ensure a fair, equitable, and open system.’

Mr Chester said Minister Evans subsequently told regional students and their families that the Coalition would cut student support payments including the Student Start-up Scholarship.

The Student Start-Up Scholarship provides eligible full-time students in receipt of Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY Living Allowance to two half-yearly payments of $1025 to cover up-front costs of items such as textbooks and specialised equipment. In the October Budget update the payment was capped by the Gillard Labor Government for the next four years to save $82 million.

“The Minister is more interested in putting out media releases to spook the current crop of regional school-leavers than congratulating them on their VCE results,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s ironic that the Minister is so intent on scaring regional students about student income support at such a crucial time when it was his predecessor and now Prime Minister who introduced a discriminatory Youth Allowance scheme in 2009.

“Had the Coalition not campaigned with regional students and their families in protest to the changes, some students would have had to work for 30 hours per week over two years to achieve the independent rate of Youth Allowance.

“We also would have had a situation where students in the same classroom were forced to comply with different schemes because of lines on a map that divided parts of Gippsland into ‘inner’ regional and ‘outer’ regional.”

Mr Chester said he would continue to work with regional students and their families to advocate for a fairer system of student income support ahead of the 2013 Federal election.

“Governments must do more to reduce the economic barriers for young people in regional areas,” Mr Chester said.

“There’s still a long way to go to improve the level of support for all regional students and increase university participation.

“We need a simpler Tertiary Access Allowance to help regional students and their families with the additional costs they face when relocating which are not faced by students who have the option of staying at home while studying.

“We also have a shared community responsibility to increase the aspiration among young people and encourage them to make the most of education and training opportunities.”

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