Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the Greens welcome the Government’s concession on Youth Allowance reform impacting on current gap year students, but will move to amend legislation to accommodate rural and regional students’ needs.
Last night Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the Government would delay for six months the removal of the workforce participation eligibility criterion used by gap year students to qualify for the independent rate of Youth Allowance, accommodating those currently on their gap year.
“The Greens are glad to see that the Deputy Prime Minister has finally acknowledged the unfairness of this Budget measure, which would have had a retrospective effect on thousands of gap year students currently working towards qualifying for student income support next year,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Education and Youth.
“Catching out people who have made plans and worked hard in good faith on the basis of the current rules is not a good way of reforming public policy.
“The campaign by the Greens and young people who organised themselves in their rural and regional communities has paid off, and the Government has conceded on this indefensible Budget measure.”
Senator Hanson-Young said the Greens remained concerned about the obstacles for young people in rural and regional areas in pursuing higher education.
“Rural and regional Australians remain disadvantaged in achieving their university dreams as they often have no choice but to leave their family home to get their tertiary education,” she said.
“The Greens urge the Coalition to back our amendments to create a new eligibility criterion for those who are geographically disadvantaged to qualify for student income support.
“It’s not fair to simply remove the criterion commonly used by young people in rural and regional areas to qualify, without replacing it with something else to accommodate their needs.”
Senator Hanson-Young said the Government’s plan to pay for the gap year backflip - delaying by 18 months the raising of the personal income threshold from $236 to $400 per fortnight before Youth Allowance payments are cut - was unfair on students who were doing their best to support themselves in difficult circumstances.
“The Deputy Prime Minister herself has pointed to country students having been left behind by the previous government, and yet the Rudd Government’s ‘Education Revolution’ rhetoric has not been matched by investment to help support aspiring students,” she said.
“Education and supporting students should be prioritised at a time when the job market is contracting, and young people are turning to education to retrain and upskill.
“Students should not be left carrying the can for the Government’s Budget savings.”