New Nationals leader to work closely with our regional members

The Hon Michael McCormack, the Member for Riverina, was elected Leader of the National Party in a meeting of the Nationals on February 26.

I congratulate Michael McCormack on being elected. He has been a fierce advocate for the interests of regional and rural Australia in his previous ministerial roles, and will continue to do so as Leader of the Nationals.

I am eager to get on with the job of working with Mr McCormack to deliver outcomes for the Mid North Coast. He and I have a productive working relationship, and I will continue to advocate for the projects the Mid-North Coast needs.

The National Party is delivering record funding and new jobs right across the Mid-North Coast, and I look forward to working closely with Mr McCormack and my other National Party colleagues to continue to deliver for our community.

I would like to thank Barnaby Joyce for his strong advocacy on behalf of regional and rural Australia.

Regional students to benefit

Students from regional and remote areas will be able to start university sooner because of changes that make it easier for them to be considered independent for student payments.

To qualify as independent for Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Living Allowance, students from regional or remote areas must earn at least $24,836 before commencing further study.

Previously, students had to wait 18 months after leaving school before qualifying for independent payments, putting them out of studies for one and a half to two academic years.

The Coalition government has reduced the time regional and remote students must spend earning this income, from 18 months to 14 months, allowing them to study with financial support one year after leaving high school.

Under the new rules, students who take a gap year after year 12 can use that time to become independent for student payments and start university sooner. The change will immediately impact about 3700 regional students across Australia, and more in the future.

In practical terms, these young people will gain life skills and work experience during their gap year which make them much more employable and self-sufficient when they move away from home.

Local businesses can take advantage of the gap year to hire motivated young staff and – because it’s only one year and not up to two years break from study – students are far more likely to continue on to university. Our regions will benefit when these young people return, uni degree in hand, to help build prosperous communities.

For more information about student payments and independence rules, visit humanservices.gov.au/students.

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