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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 8985


Mr MARLES (Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry) (9:11 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 as part of the Australian government’s extension of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme to certain subsidised students from 1 July 2009.

The government’s VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme provides financial assistance to students to ensure those wanting to study diploma and above qualifications in the vocational education and training sector are able to make real choices about their training. By removing the burden of paying up-front fees, students are able to make important decisions about education based on what is best for them and not on financial circumstances.

The government is committed to broadening and increasing Australia’s skill levels, and increasing the number of people with diploma and advanced diploma level skills is a key element of this commitment.

The availability of VET FEE-HELP is expected to significantly contribute to the Council of Australian Governments target to double the number of diploma and advanced diploma completions by 2020. In this context, the bill allows for provisions which support the expansion of VET FEE-HELP to more training organisations and state government subsidised students, even further removing financial barriers to study for those students.

From 1 July 2009, the government extended VET FEE-HELP assistance to certain state government funded students with the aim of increasing access to financial assistance. As part of that extension, eligible state government-subsidised students will have a reduced VET FEE-HELP debt. This bill implements these changes for all eligible students from 1 July 2009, ensuring that no eligible students are disadvantaged.

In addition, the bill includes technical amendments to ensure that tertiary admissions centres are able to perform certain functions in relation to personal information on behalf of both higher education and VET providers. Tertiary admissions centres play an increasingly important role in the Australian tertiary system. These centres add to the efficiency and productivity of the administration of the Australian tertiary system by centralising and coordinating admissions procedures on a state-wide basis.

These amendments ensure that student information may be appropriately shared between relevant Commonwealth agencies, higher education and VET providers and tertiary admissions centres. These measures are part of the government’s commitment to ensuring that higher education and VET providers continue to play a leading role in equipping Australians with the knowledge and skills to make Australia a more productive and prosperous nation.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Southcott) adjourned.