Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1386..
Debate resumed (continuing):
(4) acknowledges that the Federal Government's Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy payments are not high enough to meet the costs of living; and
(5) calls on the Federal Government to:
(a) review the amount students are paid in Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy; and
(b) reassess the eligibility criteria of Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy, to make it easier for students to obtain these allowances.
MRS BURKE (10.33): I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to talk about this motion. I congratulate Ms MacDonald, who is not present, on putting forward this motion, one that obviously raises some interesting points for discussion. I am pleased also to have the opportunity to congratulate the federal government on this issue. It has made big strides forward in this area.
Firstly, it is worth looking at issues such as Austudy and the youth allowance system under Labor. Under the ALP, there was no incentive to study. One would find it very hard even to consider studying under the regime that was in place under Labor. Under the ALP, there was no Austudy or youth allowance income bank, which allows students to earn up to $5,000 a year before they are penalised. Under the ALP, students had to get their head around something like 13 different classifications or student criteria.
Under the ALP, student debt was a significant issue. Student debt is not a coalition phenomenon. Ms MacDonald raised issues there and took the opportunity to bag the federal government. I think that she needs to look very closely at the record of the ALP on this matter. I would urge other members to do the same. Under the ALP, it was generally understood that students were far better off on the dole than in higher education. That is a pretty sad indictment of the way that they operate and consider themselves to be good leaders in the area of education. Being able to encourage students through a system of lifelong learning and education is something that the ALP was not too good at and on which it does not have a really good record on. For instance, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has found that students are far better off under the coalition's youth allowance than under the ALP's previous Austudy system. I think that its report was for 1998-2000.
Under the ALP, it was nearly impossible for mature age students, particularly those with a spouse and/or dependent children, to go to university. I have talked to several people to whom that has applied and they have borne that out. Indeed, we are looking at a nation in which we are all getting older and I for one would want to stay active and take part in the work force for as long as I can, doing study along that route. We also need to consider that under the ALP students could not obtain interest free loans for study or obtain financial support for postgraduate study.
I think that it is worth looking at what the current government has done from a wider perspective. Let's look at some of the positives which flow down through the states and territories. I will come to that later, but it is really important to get the federal perspective right at the beginning, that we do not cloud the issue about what the federal government