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Friday, 10 November 2000
Page: 19669


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (9:32 AM) —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

EDUCATION SERVICES FOR OVERSEAS STUDENTS (ASSURANCE FUND CON-TRI-BUTIONS) BILL 2000

The purpose of this bill is to impose the requirement to pay annual contributions and special levies to the ESOS Assurance Fund.

This is being done in a separate bill, as the compulsory contributions to the Assurance Fund could constitute a tax. I must emphasise however that the ESOS bill 2000 provides that these contributions may only be used for the purposes of the Fund, and that, if the Fund is ever wound up, any surplus in it will be returned to the members then current. This bill is an important adjunct to the main bill, which provides detailed provisions for the Assurance Fund, and which I have already addressed in detail.

The financial impact of the bill will be minimal.

I commend the bill.

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EDUCATION SERVICES FOR OVERSEAS STU-DENTS (CONSEQUENTIAL AND TRAN-SI-TIONAL) BILL 2000

The Education Services for Overseas Students (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2000 will repeal the Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of Providers and Financial Regulation) Act 1991 (the old ESOS Act), and provide introductory and transitional conditions for the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (new ESOS Act).

This bill is an important adjunct to the main bill, which I have already addressed in detail. Its financial impact will be minimal.

I commend the bill.

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EDUCATION SERVICES FOR OVERSEAS STU-DENTS (REGISTRATION CHARGES) AMEND-MENT BILL 2000

This bill has the purpose of introducing changes to the Annual Registration Charge (ARC) for education and training providers registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Industry contributions to the costs of the regulatory system are required under the Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Act 1997.

This bill is an adjunct to the main bill, as it will provide the resources for the new pro-active Commonwealth role, which I have already covered in detail.

The financial impact of the bill will be minimal.

I commend the bill.

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MIGRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (OVER-SEAS STUDENTS) BILL 2000

This bill complements the Education Services for Overseas Students Bill 2000 and the Education Services for Overseas Students (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2000.

1999-2000 was a record year for overseas student numbers. Over 120,000 student visas were granted - an impressive 9% increase over the previous year. This growth reflects the effective marketing of Australian education overseas. Successful overseas students are increasingly becoming an important part of skilled migration program and, consequently, of the Australian society of the future.

But there was also an increase in student visa cancellations as well as activity by a small number of unscrupulous education providers and education agents to subvert the integrity of the student visa program.

The government values the contribution to Australian society made by successful overseas students, and appreciates the enormous importance of the education export industry. However we also recognise the need to protect the integrity of the student visa program.

This bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Overseas Students) Bill 2000, provides for a number of measures to improve monitoring and compliance in the overseas students industry.

The first measure is the introduction of a more streamlined process of student visa cancellation.

Under present (voluntary) arrangements, education providers undertake to notify the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs when a student is not attending classes or is not demonstrating satisfactory academic performance - thereby not complying with the conditions of his or her visa.

DIMA receives hundreds of non-compliance notices from education providers each month. Effective management of these notices is an enormous task and must be streamlined.

To make the process more effective, the new regime introduced by the Education Services for Overseas Students Bill will require that where a student is not complying with course requirements, the provider will send a Notice directly to the student (copied to the Department of Immigration) warning the student that their visa will be cancelled within 28 days if they do not report to the Department.

Complementary measures in this bill will provide if the student does not report within the 28 days, their visa will be automatically cancelled by operation of law.

A student who reports within 28 days, and is able to show good reasons for their apparent non-compliance with visa conditions will be able to resume studies.

Complementary amendments to the Migration Regulations will ensure that students are required to maintain their most current address with their education provider.

A further safeguard is the built-in provision to apply for revocation of the cancellation. Merits review of a delegate's decision to refuse revocation will also be available.

The international education industry has been consulted about these changes and strongly supports the automatic visa cancellation proposal as it considers that it will provide a significant deterrent to overseas students considering breaching visa conditions.

This bill also introduces enhanced powers for authorised officers to obtain from education providers, and to search provider premises for, information relevant to compliance with student visa conditions.

Finally, the bill provides for increased flexibility in the use of the 'no further stay' visa condition, allowing for closer management of the temporary visa program including student visas.

At present, a non-citizen whose visa contains a 'no further stay' condition may not apply for any other class of visa after entering Australia, other than a Protection Visa or a bridging visa.

This bill will enable the Migration Regulations to provide for modified 'no further stay' conditions to allow non-citizens, including students, to apply for a wider range of temporary entry visas.

Thus, students, for example, may have a visa condition applied which only permits the grant of a protection visa, a bridging visa, or a further student visa with limited work rights, once they have commenced their studies in Australia.

This will enable Immigration officers to use this condition more flexibly and also more extensively than is presently the case.

These measures - streamlined visa cancellation, new investigation powers, and increased visa condition flexibility - are complemented by measures in the Education Services for Overseas Students Bill giving the Immigration Minister powers to suspend further student recruitment by a provider whose students are of immigration concern.

In addition, measures in the Education Services for Overseas Students (Consequential and Transitional) Bill provide the framework for better information-sharing between the Department of Immigration the Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs, and relevant State bodies. That bill also allows for the making of necessary regulations under the Migration Act. It is intended that where these regulations involve the disclosure of personal information, they would be drafted in consultation with the Attorney-General.

In conclusion, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Overseas Students) Bill sends a clear message to unscrupulous education providers, agents and non-bona fide overseas students.

They are part of a package announced by the Government in March this year to promote the integrity and growth of the overseas student program.

I commend the bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Carr) adjourned.