December 7, 2009
Gippsland students have been left in limbo after the Rudd Labor Government’s proposed changes to Youth Allowance were rejected in Parliament, according to The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.
With Federal Parliamentary sittings finished for the year, Mr Chester said the existing gap year arrangements would remain in place because the government’s legislation had been rejected in the Senate.
“It remains to be seen whether the Labor Government tries to reintroduce its changes when Parliament resumes in February and there is a great deal of confusion over future levels of student income support in the community,” Mr Chester said.
“The problems started because the Minister tried to force legislation through Parliament which would have unfairly penalised students who were currently on their gap years.
“The Nationals and all other non-government parties rejected those proposals in the Senate and students have now been left in limbo. The Minister has botched these changes and the students are the meat in the sandwich – it makes it very difficult for students to make informed decisions about their study plans.
“The government has also placed the scholarship system in jeopardy by abolishing the old Commonwealth Scholarship system without ensuring that its replacement was in place in time for 2010.”
Mr Chester has repeatedly criticised the level of wasteful spending in the government’s $16.2 billion school hall program and urged the Minister to engage in a broader debate about the need for additional financial support for students from rural and regional areas.
“With the current legislation reaching a stalemate, there’s an opportunity to broaden this debate and put in place a system which actually addresses the economic barriers for regional students,” Mr Chester said.
“Helping students from rural and regional areas to achieve their full potential will help to improved the skill base of country areas and reduce the skill shortages we are constantly faced with across a range of industries, particularly the health sector.
“The Minister’s changes to the system of student income support are designed to be budget neutral – that is, she is taking from one area of the system to bolster another area. There is no new spending attached to these initiatives; there is nothing revolutionary about this. If the government was serious about addressing the issues of regional disadvantage in the higher education system we would be looking beyond the current budget cycle and looking to the future of our nation.
“If the government was serious about an education revolution, we would not be throwing $16 billion at a school halls program – we would have a balanced package that delivered strategic upgrades to schools which need the funding the most and we would be using some of that money to revolutionise the system of student income support.”