The Federal Government must decide whether to see sense or stick to its narrow-minded approach to student support for tertiary education after the passage of amendments to Youth Allowance legislation in the Senate, according to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Senator Hanson-Young, the Greens spokesperson on Education, says the Government failed to act despite widespread concerns about the impact of its proposed legislation.
"The Federal Government has failed to convince anyone that it cares about rural and regional students and their ability to access tertiary education,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.
"It has been left to the Greens and other groups in the Senate to do something to save a poorly drafted piece of legislation.''
"The amendments passed by the Senate provide a much better outcome for students.''
Some of the changes secured include:
• Relaxing the rules to allow young people in rural and regional areas to be declared independent as long as they work an average of 30 hours a week, rather than 30-plus hours EVERY week.
• Modifying the independence criteria to ensure that future students from rural and regional areas who are forced to leave home to study still have an avenue to become eligible for the independent rate of Youth Allowance, if they can prove that they are living away from home and have earned a set amount within an 18-month period.
• A review of the effect of the Youth Allowance legislation with particular focus on the effect on rural and regional students no later than June 30, 2012.
• The removal of the retrospective part of the legislation to ensure that all current gap years students that entered into a gap year in good faith will be able to secure the independent rate.
"The Government has claimed there is no money to fund amendments, but the Greens believe the Senate outcome gives the Government an opportunity to reconsider their hard-line stance on the issue,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.
"This bill now goes back to the House of Representatives, and we say the Government should do the right thing by students and pass the amended legislation.''