Did penalty rates affect pharmacy student learning?

CHristopher Back

Penalty rates may have harmed pharmacy students’ learning options, a Liberal Senator claims

Speaking in support of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2017 in Parliament on Monday, Senator Christopher Back (Lib, WA) claimed the 2009 changes to  penalty rate levels could have had a negative impact on pharmacy students.

Senator Back asked Senators to reflect on learning opportunities available to pharmacy students in the past.

“Up till then [2009], before the changes that were introduced by the then Labor government, pharmacy students could on a weekend be involved in the preparing of Webster packs and blister packs for patients in nursing homes, hospitals etc,” he said.

“Not only did they have the opportunity to be employed on a weekend, to earn some extra income on a weekend, but of course there was the value to them as pharmacy students of working with pharmaceuticals, of learning about them and of discussing the relativities of what was compatible with that medication.

“That was completely lost, simply because the necessity to pay those penalty rates was such that the employers were saying, ‘Well, we can have this work done from Monday to Friday by unskilled or semiskilled people, but unfortunately we can’t employ those pharmacy students on a weekend, particularly a Sunday, because of the penalty rates’.”

He said simplifying student payments will significantly address disadvantage and inequality of opportunity among regional and rural students.

“The barrier to education for rural and regional students will be in some way broken down. The best evidence of that barrier is that, whilst people from rural and regional Australia represent a quarter of the general community, less than 20% are represented at Australia’s universities. From our own state of Western Australia, that figure would be much lower.”

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