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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1189


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12:28): I thank all senators who have contributed to this debate and appreciate the positive manner and constructive way in which they have approached these issues. I will not delay the chamber too long in summing up other than to say that this is the final response to the Baird review, which I think has been a very good process designed to address some of the issues which were exposed in terms of the management and support for overseas students studying in Australia. I congratulate Mr Bruce Baird on the role he has played.

I also thank all those who contributed to the debate around these bills. We have listened to the sector and their concerns, but there is one overriding objective in all of this, which I continue to stress: this is a competitive international industry. Brand Australia is really important in this debate. For every closure of a college or every student who is treated poorly, the impact is felt around the world in terms of Australia's reputation. It does not matter whether it is the small cooking college in Melbourne or the Australian National University; a poor experience for someone in the small cooking college in Melbourne impacts on the ANU and every other university and college that is out there marketing its services as part of Australian international education.

So it is very important that we get this right. It is very important that we provide as much protection and support for those international students and the sector as possible. That is done by making sure we have a very rigorous regulatory environment which supports the sector, supports its capacity, supports its responsiveness to the needs of students and ensures that we continue to support a really strong international reputation for our international education sector.

I have heard the concerns of stakeholders about some of the business aspects of these changes and the good work that came out of the Senate committee inquiry, so the government will be moving some amendments to give providers more time to notify the TPS Director of provider and student defaults. We think these suggestions, made and picked up by the Senate committee inquiry, are good ones and so we will be moving amendments to support the approach that was recommended in that report.

I do not think we have enough evidence to support some of the amendments that have been moved by the Greens and Senator Xenophon. I am not sure whether he is still moving amendments; I heard he was moving amendments but I will have to double check.

Senator Xenophon: You heard right.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: Okay. I heard right. You looked quizzical, Senator, so I thought maybe I had heard wrong.

Senator Xenophon interjecting

Senator CHRIS EVANS: We will come to that in time, but I do appreciate the constructive manner in which senators have engaged in this. I remind people that the passage of these bills is essential if we are going to get the 1 July 2012 date, but I will deal with the amendments as we move through the committee stages.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.