MATTERS OF URGENCY - Cost of Living: Students

MATTERS OF URGENCY - Cost of Living: Students Main Image

06 June 2023

The Labor government is committed, as it has always been committed, to supporting all Australians, especially our students on their journey to gain an education, to build their life and to contribute to our community and economy. It is, of course, very clear to all of us in this place that the rising cost of living is hitting Australians very hard, including students. That's why we filled the budget with measures targeted at supporting concern for cost-of-living pressures, including for students. We had at the centrepiece of our budget a $14.6 billion cost-of-living package. I would note that, with inflation still much higher than what we would like and more persistent than would be ideal, these measures do make a meaningful difference to the cost of living, including for students. And they're targeted at where the cost of living actually rests—for example, in energy consumption, in seeing your doctor and in the price of medicines.

Under the last government, in inquiry after inquiry, we saw students and other young people on Austudy, in representations to Senate committees, arguing, for example, that they couldn't afford to see a doctor and that they had to choose which medicine they would take or whether they would turn on their heater in the wintertime. They felt they had no choice, frankly, other than to be cold. So there's a real reason we targeted our measures at the pointy end of the cost of living, not a catch-all for all students. Yes, many students are doing it tough, but I did notice in recent Commonwealth Bank data on inflation and trends and who is hurting most in the economy currently that they found, if you are a renter and a young person who's moved out of home and into share housing—that is, indeed, quite stressful, and that is why it's really important that Commonwealth rent assistance has been improved. But they did, in fact, see in this data that discretionary spending for students who live at home with their parents was still being sustained and that where you see the real pointy end of cost-of-living pressures is frankly on renters and on people with significant mortgages. So there is a real reason that we have targeted our measures in this way.

Under those opposite, we saw a wasted decade and the wrong priorities, with falling real wages, cost-of-living pressures and $1 trillion of debt without an economic dividend to show for it. We understand that this takes time to rectify. Part of rectifying this is ensuring that Australians can make it through with the qualifications that they need to build our economy and build their own futures.

We are targeting our policies to ease cost-of-living pressures and directly reduce inflation by three-quarters of a percentage point over the next financial year. We are here to ensure that students can cover basic costs while focusing on their studies and career aspirations. This includes more fee-free TAFE. It includes an increase to the base rate for eligible recipients of JobSeeker, Austudy, youth allowance and other working-age payments. Rates of student payments, youth allowance, Austudy and ABSTUDY will increase by $40 a fortnight from 20 September. There are some 318,000 young people under 25 who will benefit from this. And, very significantly, we are increasing the maximum rates of Commonwealth— (Time expired)