Early this week the Senate passed Coalition amendments to Youth Allowance, which would allow students in regional and rural Tasmania to access vital financial support as they pursue their studies.

However these changes were rejected on Wednesday by Labor in the House of Representatives.

“I am very disappointed that the Rudd Labor Government refused to accept the Coalition’s proposals to fix up the Government’s Youth Allowance reforms,” Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said.

“My office has been overwhelmed with correspondence and calls from concerned parents and students on the Youth Allowance issue and I urge the Government to reconsider its position when the Bill returns to the Senate.

“The Coalition is committed to supporting rural and regional students being able to access tertiary education.

“But the Rudd Labor Government’s legislation is making it almost impossible for students from farming families, as well as other rural and regional students who do not have the option of staying at home while studying at university, to access Youth Allowance.

“The Coalition amendment to fix this was based on the recommendations of the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs Committee, and it passed with the support of the Greens and Independents. The Labor Party is on its own in its refusal to admit that there is a serious problem with their legislation.

“The Government has also moved to retrospectively cancel the Independent Youth Allowance for 25,000 students who have taken a ‘gap year’ under the current rules. This would pull the rug out from under thousands of students who are already on their gap year.

“These students acted on the advice of Centrelink and guidance counsellors, and deserve to gain Youth Allowance assistance in 2010,” Senator Colbeck said.

Under present regulations, students must earn $19,532 within an 18 month period to quality for Youth Allowance. However, changes proposed by the Rudd Labor Government would see this criteria abolished. Instead, a young person would be required to work full time for a minimum of 30 hours a week for at least 18 months in a two year period to be considered financially independent.

“Because this legislation will have a start date of 1 January 2010, all students currently undertaking a gap year will no longer be eligible, as this criteria has been axed.

“The Rudd Labor Government needs to swallow its pride and accept the Coalition’s amendments, so students here in Tasmania have the chance to fulfil their dreams of going to university and succeed in their chosen career,” Senator Colbeck said.
SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator for Tasmania