Killing off the Gap year will open up an education gap
The Coalition will not support the Rudd Government’s planned changes to youth allowance while they retrospectively punish students who took a gap year based on advice last year from Government agencies. It’s that simple.
Young people, who on the advice of guidance counsellors, Centrelink and teachers have opted to take a twelve month gap year, working to earn enough money to qualify for independent youth allowance under the current rules with plans to study next year, will have the rug pulled from under them because of the Government’s changes.
The Government’s own figures show there are about 26,000 of them.
A Government that was more interested in good policy than good spin would know that any new legislation that overhauls a system needs to be structured with a transition period so that people who made decisions in good faith on the old system are not punished.
With the stated policy aim of increasing university attendance, particularly from rural areas, the Labor party is crushing the ambitions of these 26,000 potential students.
Many of these students are based in rural and regional areas, whose parents may be deemed by the Government as ‘asset rich’, owning the family farm, but income poor.
The average family farm in Australia exceeds the amount allowed under the Youth Allowance assets test, yet the average family farming income in Australia in many years will be far beneath the level required to send that family’s children to University.
Unable to take money from their parents for the substantial costs of moving and living in the cities while studying, taking a gap year was the only option for these students.
To address this flawed piece of legislation the Coalition is proposing revenue neutral amendments that will allow those young people currently on their gap year the opportunity to attend University as they planned. It’s only fair.
This change will not be cheap, but to ensure that it is cost neutral, the Opposition is also proposing that the new cash bonus the Rudd Government plans to give to all students receiving youth allowance (even if they’re only receiving partial youth allowance) be cut to $1000 per year.
Despite Julia Gillard’s claims, we know that no student under the Coalition’s plan will be worse off, as they will all still receive for the first time ever a new cash bonus.
We also know that under the Government’s plan, 26,000 students will entirely miss out because Ms Gillard has shifted the goal posts in the middle of their gap year.
Additionally we have announced that we will introduce a new program to address the disparity that exists between rural students and city students, through either special scholarships, or alternatively through a separate entitlement.
The Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs Committee has spent several months conducting an inquiry into this issue, taking evidence from students, parents, Universities, Unions and other groups. We are currently considering this Committee’s recommendations as to how we might best be able to assist rural and regional students who are disadvantaged by Minister Gillard’s changes.
The Inquiry made a couple of points about how Julia Gillard has handled this issue that are particularly worth noting.
In their words: “The committee received substantial evidence and submissions which indicated that the tightening of the workforce participation criteria has caused a high level of anxiety in the community, particularly to those students currently on their gap year, and those students who are completing Year 12 (or the equivalent) this year. The committee would like to put on the record that it believes the Government has handled the implementation of this policy reform poorly.”
Even the Victorian Parliament’s Labor-dominated Education Committee recently reported: “the Committee believes that the removal of the main workforce participation route will have a disastrous effect on young people in rural and regional areas…” and that the changes “… will have a detrimental impact on many students who deferred their studies during 2009 in order to work and earn sufficient money to be eligible for Youth Allowance.”
As Year 12 students around Australia are doing their exams right now, many in rural and regional Australia are doing so knowing that the Rudd Government is attempting to remove their opportunity to get Youth Allowance and attend University.
This is not fair on them, but the Coalition will stand up for their future.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…