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The Greens' Practical Plan to Solve the Youth Allowance Crisis

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 17 Feb 2010

The Australian Greens have announced a three-point plan to solve the Youth Allowance crisis and provide vital assistance to students, according to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson on Education, says the Senate's failure to pass legislation last year has left students and their families in total confusion over what is happening with student income support.

"Students and their families don't care who gets the credit, they just want someone to end the confusion and find a solution that gives them the support they need to access tertiary education,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.

"This may be a political problem for the major parties, but it is an urgent practical problem for young people who have no idea what support - if any - they will have as they prepare for starting university next week.

"Thousands of students have missed out on vital scholarships to help them with the costs of starting university, leaving many with no support at all.

"It's time to get serious, to acknowledge the things we all agree on and fix the things we don't. The Greens have a three-point plan to break the deadlock, secure the scholarships that students have been promised and improve the Youth Allowance package to provide fair and appropriate support to those who need it.''

Last year the Greens negotiated amendments to the Youth Allowance legislation to improve the package, particularly those in rural and regional areas. However the Coalition and Senator Steve Fielding voted against the amended legislation, preventing it from becoming law.

The failure to pass the legislation before January 1 now means the package must be extensively amended to avoid the same pitfalls of retrospectivity contained in last year's legislation.

The Greens plan involves:

• Introducing a Private Senator's Bill to provide $2000 scholarships for students starting university whose parents earn less than $150,000;

• Establishing an Education Access Fund. The fund would provide a means-tested payment of the full rate of Youth Allowance to students who have to move more than 90 minutes from home to access tertiary education; and

• A commitment to implementing the new and improved Youth Allowance Package from January 1, 2011 to avoid the issue of retrospectivity and give the Government and Centrelink time to inform current and future Youth Allowance recipients about the changes.

"This would mean that the Government would still have to find some extra money, but any real reform requires real funding to make it work,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.

"I will introduce a Private Senator's Bill to the Senate when Parliament resumes next week. I urge both the Government and Opposition to consider it carefully and then act in the interest of students by passing the bill so we can get on with fixing the rest of the system.''


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