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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 11964

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (11:03): I too support the Higher Education Support Amendment (Maximum Payment Amounts and Other Measures) Bill 2012. This bill adjusts the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to adjust the maximum payments for Commonwealth scholarships and other grants to reflect indexation and other funding for the coming year as determined by the minister. In effect it allows $1.24 billion extra in higher education funding between 2013 and 2016. This important bill also amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to apply indexation and to add to the last year forward estimates to ensure appropriate funding for the Australian Research Council. This will increase the spending of the ARC from close to $830 million for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2016.

The ARC conducts high-quality research essential to our nation's ability to be innovative and also to increasing our competitiveness in the global arena. The ARC, to that extent, is a major source of the Commonwealth's funding in investigative-driven research, and many of our nation's world-class research facilities are a direct beneficiary of the work of the ARC and its funding. These facilities are conducting groundbreaking research into technologies such as the bionic eye. They also perform the important tasks of strengthening the diversity of our research workforce and ensuring that more Indigenous Australians are attracted into academia and more women are encouraged to keep research careers in that field.

Importantly, schedule 3 of the bill also allows for disclosure of information on staff and students for purposes of Higher Education Statistics Agency research to measure the quality of and the satisfaction with teaching and learning standards within the Australian education system. This will undoubtedly have an effect on improving the quality of and satisfaction with tertiary education provisions across the nation. In order to ensure that there is not a breach of privacy, those who have gained access to the personal information of staff and former and current students will be bound by the Privacy Act 1988 and the Higher Education Data Protocols. This will ensure that staff and students are informed of and are able to give consent to their personal information being used for the purposes of conducting surveys et cetera. Organisations such as the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency and the Australian Skills Quality Authority, their peak bodies and state and territory governments all require access to detailed information for the purposes of planning quality assurance.

This bill is yet another example of the government's commitment to Australia's youth and to the country in general in building a world-class education system. This year alone, it is important to note, the Gillard government will invest $13.6 billion in our schools, which is almost double the spending of the former Howard government in its last budget. In addition, this government has worked hard to renew old facilities and refurbish others in various schools around the countryside to ensure that our kids have access to language centres, science centres, computer labs, libraries and early learning centres. As a matter of fact, in my electorate alone this government has spent $108 million on 115 projects that have benefited 46 schools under the Building the Education Revolution program. If you think about that, my electorate is one of 150; replicate that and you will see the dimensions on which this government has worked with the education system to give our kids the best start possible through education.

We are moving to ensure that our students keep step with their peers from the most advanced nations around the world by investing in technological literacy through the Digital Education Revolution, which has delivered computers to every student from year 9 through to year 12. Again, in Fowler alone, that is equivalent to 8,500 computers that have already been installed to make sure that the young people in my electorate are not left behind.

We are also making sure that the youth have the best options, whether they decide to pursue an academic path or to engage in a trade through vocational education. I recently had the honour of attending the opening of the trade training centre at Bonnyrigg High School in my electorate. Thanks to $1.5 million invested by the Gillard Labor government, aspiring young chefs and people—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Rishworth ): Order! As a result of the House being suspended for the election of the second Deputy Speaker, I will now suspend the Federation Chamber, to resume after the vote has been conducted.

Sitting suspended from 11:10 to 12:29