The Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation has failed to address serious concerns among regional university students about the Rudd Government’s changes to the Youth Allowance, Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said today.
During Question Time in State Parliament this week, Mr Ryan cited an all-party Parliamentary Education and Training Committee inquiry that found the proposed changes to the Youth Allowance eligibility criteria would have a ‘disastrous effect’ on young people in rural and regional areas.
“I asked the Minister what representations she had now made to the Federal Government on behalf of Victorian young people in rural and regional areas to avoid this disastrous outcome,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Minister dismissed the legitimate concerns raised in the parliamentary report, despite her own Labor colleagues agreeing that regional university students will be severely disadvantaged.
“There is something wrong when the Minister is pandering to her Federal Labor mates despite overwhelming opposition to Kevin Rudd’s Youth Allowance changes.”
The Education and Training Committee’s report found fewer regional and rural students applied for university courses than their metropolitan counterparts and that economic barriers prevented many regional students attending university.
The report recommended all university students who are forced to relocate should receive government assistance.
Under the proposed changes, VCE students wishing to qualify for Youth Allowance will be forced to work 30 hours a week for at least 18 months, whereas the independent allowance was previously approved for students who earned at least $19,500 in an 18-month period.
“Already many regional students don’t bother applying to university because they can’t afford to, and these Youth Allowance changes will only exacerbate this problem,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Minister is more interested in cosying up to her Labor mates in Canberra than standing up for the many students and their families in regional and rural Victoria who are furious about these Youth Allowance changes.”