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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4738


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (17:55): I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPORT AMENDMENT (STUDENT CONTRIBUTION AMOUNTS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2012

The Higher Education Support Amendment (Student Contribution Amounts and Other Measures) Bill 2012 amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to increase the maximum student contribution amount for units of study in mathematics, statistics and science from 1 January 2013.

The Bill removes eligibility for Commonwealth supported places and the Higher Education Loan Program schemes for Australian citizens who will not be resident in Australia.

To support continued growth in the higher education sector the Government is increasing the maximum student contribution amount for units of study in mathematics, statistics and science from 2013.

All students will pay the same student contribution amount for maths and science units of study regardless of when they commenced their course of study.

The Government believes the reduction in student contributions for maths and science that commenced for students starting a course of study from 1 January 2009 was not delivering value for money.

The majority of students undertaking maths and science units in 2009 and 2010 were not enrolled in a maths or science course of study, nor were they studying an education course. It is clear the policy was not substantially increasing the number of maths and science graduates in the workforce as intended and it was not improving the supply of quality maths and science teachers.

In 2011, the Prime Minister asked the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC, to advise on ways to encourage increased enrolments in mathematics, statistics and science courses at university and school.

The Government considered the Chief Scientist's advice and announced a $54 million response as part of the 2012-13 Budget to improve student engagement in maths and science.

To improve the supply of qualified graduates entering maths and science teaching at school, the Government will fund projects and courses that improve the quality of teacher training.

To ensure the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) continues to provide support to mathematics researchers and students, the Government will fund AMSI to provide scholarships and a range of intensive short courses for later year university maths students.

The Government will also fund innovative partnerships between universities and schools that are experiencing difficulty in engaging students in science and maths, have poor outcomes in maths and science, or have low numbers of students going on to further study in these disciplines.

These initiatives ensure universities receive more money to support the teaching of maths and science so Australia has people highly skilled in these disciplines. This will be critical to developing a knowledge based economy and ensuring future generations are also equipped with these skills.

The Government is removing eligibility for Commonwealth supported places and the HELP schemes for Australian citizens who do not reside in Australia.

The Government believes its funding priority should be to support those students who are most likely to pursue careers in Australia, repay their HELP debts and use their education to benefit Australia's workforce and economic needs.

Students undertaking study as part of a formal exchange or who are engaged in a study abroad program for some of the units in their course, including those students receiving assistance through the OS HELP scheme, will not be affected by this change.

The estimated number of people who may be affected by this change is relatively small. However, with the removal of all limits on the number of undergraduate places in bachelor level courses and growth in online delivery of courses, it is important to clarify the eligibility conditions for Commonwealth support before there is further growth in the number of students who do not live in Australia and are being assisted by the Government.

There are around three quarters of a million Australians living overseas permanently or long term. In the last three years over 120,000 Australians left the country with the intention of permanently residing overseas. The Government does not believe it is appropriate that they continue to receive large subsidies toward obtaining a higher education degree from an Australian university while they are overseas.

The small number of students who are not resident in Australia and are currently enrolled in Commonwealth supported places or are accessing HELP will continue to be eligible for the schemes for the duration of their current course.

This amendment complements last year's changes to the Act clarifying that Australian citizens are not entitled to Commonwealth support or to access HELP when they are undertaking courses of study primarily at an overseas campus.

STATUTE STOCKTAKE (APPROPRIATIONS) BILL (NO. 1) 2012

The Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Bill (No. 1) 2012 is the fifth Statute Stocktake Bill since 1998, and forms part an ongoing process to clean up the statute book by repealing legislation that is redundant.

The Bill also furthers the Government's deregulation agenda. The Government has stepped up its deregulation reform program, including the progress made at the Business Advisory Forum in May 2012, and the Prime Minister's Economic Forum in June 2012. The Government considers that it is important that continued progress is made in this important area.

The Bill would, if enacted, repeal:

93 redundant Appropriation Acts from 1984 to 1999;

35 redundant Supply Acts from 1984 to 1997; and

3 Acts containing redundant special appropriations from the Treasury portfolio.

The Bill would also continue the Government's commitment to a regularly review special appropriations and maintain effective legislative housekeeping, including by repealing 3 superannuation related provisions containing 2 redundant special appropriations from the Finance portfolio.

Regarding the 128 Appropriation and Supply Acts from 1984 to 1999, this Bill would repeal as many as 13 Appropriation and Supply Acts for one financial year (for example, in 1992-1993) and as few as 6 Appropriation and Supply Acts for other financial years (for example, the 4 financial years between 1994-1996 and 1997-1999).

The Bill does not appropriate any money, rather it seeks to repeal whole Acts, and to repeal special appropriations within Acts, that are redundant.

In addition to the Appropriation Acts that will be repealed by this Bill, the Government is reviewing Appropriation Acts since 1999-2000 to determine whether more recent Appropriation Acts are also redundant and could be repealed.

I commend the Bill.

TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (INVESTMENT MANAGER REGIME) BILL 2012

In January 2010, the Australian Financial Centre Forum released a report titled Australia as a Financial Centre.

This has become known as the "Johnson Report" in recognition of Mark Johnson's leadership of the Forum and his subsequent leadership of the Australian Financial Centre Task Force.

The Johnson Report concluded that Australia had arguably the most efficient and competitive financial services in the Asia Pacific. This is reflected in the fact that, even in this era of the mining boom, the financial services sector is the largest single contributor to GDP of any sector in the economy.

Despite these strengths, the Johnson Report observed that the sector could benefit from becoming more export oriented.

One of the key initiatives aimed at making the sector more outward oriented was the Investment Manager Regime.

This initiative will put Australian fund managers in a stronger position to manage not just funds being invested in Australia — but funds invested in other countries. This will maximise the benefits flowing to the Australian workforce and Australian consumers of financial products.

In addition, the initiative will reduce tax uncertainty for widely held foreign funds investing in passive Australian investments.

This legislation contains two schedules, which contain the first two elements of the Investment Manager Regime.

Schedule 1 will prescribe the tax treatment of conduit income of widely held foreign funds. These amendments will apply to the 2010-11 and later income years.

The amendments are designed to ensure that the complex tax issues that can currently arise do not operate to discourage foreign funds from engaging the services of an Australian intermediary, for instance an investment manager.

These amendments will ensure that investment income of a foreign entity is not subject to tax in Australia simply because it engages an Australian advisor, where that income would not otherwise have an Australian source.

Schedule 2 will address the uncertainty surrounding the impact of United States accounting standard ASC 740-10 — the amendments are often referred to as the FIN 48 measures. These measures will apply to the 2010-11 and earlier income years.

The amendments in Schedule 2 remove the potential for uncertainty regarding the Australian tax treatment of certain foreign fund income and will allow foreign investors to move forward in their arrangements with confidence of their Australian tax position relating to earlier years.

The proposed amendments are designed to clarify the taxation treatment of certain income of foreign funds which have not lodged a tax return or have had an assessment made of their income tax liability.

Where the conditions of the provisions are met, certain types of investment income and gains will be exempt from Australian tax. In addition, losses or outgoings in respect of certain investments will be disregarded.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): In accordance with standing order 111, further consideration of these bills is now adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings commencing on 14 August 2012