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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 7001

Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women) (10:54): I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill will introduce a number of streamlining measures to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (the Act) to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and to maintain the ongoing integrity of the government's income contingent loan programs for the higher education and vocational education and training (VET) sectors, namely FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP respectively. It is now apparent that some aspects of these programs require refinement to reflect current higher education and VET sector arrangements.

The bill will also ensure consistency with other Commonwealth regulatory frameworks including the proposed National VET Regulator expected to be established by April 2011. Furthermore, the bill will better position the government to implement its 2010 budget measures announced in the Skills for Sustainable Growth Strategy, in particular, its commitment to a National Entitlement to a Quality Training Place by 1 July 2011.

FEE-HELP is available to eligible full-fee-paying higher education students and VET FEE-HELP is available to eligible full-fee-paying and certain state government subsidised VET students studying in higher level education or training, and provides a loan for all or part of a student's tuition costs. This assistance is aimed at encouraging students to take up higher education and higher level skill qualifications by reducing the financial barriers associated with study.

The bill is aimed at ensuring quality education providers can apply for and be approved as providers under the act to be able to offer FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance. The changes will simplify administrative requirements delivering efficiencies to both providers and the Commonwealth, to improve the Commonwealth's ability to manage provider risk, to increase the rate of provider approval, and therefore increase the number of students able to access income contingent loans through quality providers in both the higher education and VET sectors.

I commend the bill to the House.