The Australian Greens today voted against a last-minute amendment in the Senate to delay the indexation of scholarships targeted at low-income students to assist with the high costs of starting higher education.
The amendment, tacked on to the Higher Education Support Amendment (Streamlining) Bill 2012, will delay the indexation of Student Start-Up Scholarships until January 2017 and was flagged in the recent Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).
"It is disappointing that Labor and Coalition MPs joined ranks to claw back this money from low-income students already struggling to make ends meet in full-time study", said Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.
"NSW Nationals Senator Fiona Nash talked the talk in the Senate about how freezing this scholarship will make life harder for many students, particularly those from regional areas, but in the same hypocritical breath committed the Coalition to support the government.
"If Senator Nash had stood by her rhetoric, the Greens and the Coalition would have had the numbers to defeat this erosion of the Student Start-Up Scholarship.
"Burdening poorer students for the sake of throwing $80 million at a budget surplus is unfair and backward-thinking.
"Student Start-Up Scholarships are aimed at low-income students. These students are being urged by the government to undertake full time study to grow Australia as the clever country and they already face multiple barriers of disadvantage.
"Higher education was hit hard by the recent round of MYEFO budget cuts, with $250 million less for students, $750 less in university funding and more than $550 million less for trade training and apprenticeships.
"Cutting these scholarships makes a mockery of the Labor government's rhetoric about getting more low-income students into full-time study to build up Australia's productivity", said Senator Rhiannon.