Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the Federal Government must amend its Youth Allowance Budget measures legislation to accommodate current gap year students who have been blocked from qualifying as independent by the Government’s proposed changes*.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard today held a roundtable meeting with young people affected by the Government’s proposed changes to Youth Allowance, and announced afterwards that the Government would consider the students’ concerns and respond “in due course”.
“The Deputy Prime Minister must amend her Youth Allowance legislation before it reaches the Senate – or else the Greens will do it for her,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Education and Youth.
“The Government’s response today stopped short of admitting it has made a major blunder in cutting off current gap year students from qualifying for independent Youth Allowance to sustain them at university next year.
“However, the Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government would respond in due course to concerns has laid the foundation for the embarrassing backflip that must follow the public outcry over its unfair changes.”
Senator Hanson-Young said the education sector should not have been targeted for savings in the May Budget.
“Young Australians aspiring to higher education – especially the large numbers of gap year students in rural and regional areas - should not be left carrying the can in the name of Budget savings,” she said.
“The Deputy Prime Minister herself said today that country students had been left behind by the previous Government, yet the Rudd Government has delivered only a Budget-neutral package for its ‘Education Revolution’.
“At a time when the job market is contracting, and young people are turning to further education, retraining and upskilling to better their work prospects, we should be supporting them in doing so, not making it harder.
“Other areas of the Budget – for example, tax cuts for high-income earners – could have been looked at to save those dollars.
“The Greens will also move to have a new eligibility criterion included in the independence test for Youth Allowance, to accommodate geographically disadvantaged students, who can adequately prove to Centrelink that they have had to move out of their family home to go to university or TAFE.”
* The workforce participation eligibility criterion used by many young people from rural and regional Australia to qualify for the independent rate of Youth Allowance (earning $19,532 in an 18-month period during a ‘gap year’) is scheduled to end on January 1, 2010, excluding many aspiring university students from support in 2011.