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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 27559

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (4:10 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

The Bill amends the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to provide additional funding for projects involving partnerships between communities, industry and education providers as well as projects which provide support for vocational learning for Indigenous secondary students. This funding is being targeted in response to recommendations in the “Participation Report for a more Equitable Society”, the final report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform, chaired by Patrick McClure.

In particular, the Government will provide $8.6 million over 4 years to promote better links between communities, industry and education providers and build self-reliance for Indigenous people through encouraging Indigenous secondary school students to complete Year 12 and to progress to tertiary and further education. Funding will be used to implement programmes aimed at promoting early intervention strategies to improve education outcomes for Indigenous school students.

The initiative will draw on the experiences of the Polly Farmer Foundation `Gumala Mirnuwarni' project which has been successfully operating in Western Australia. The project vision of the `Gumala Mirnuwarni' project is to improve the educational outcomes for Aboriginal students in the Roebourne area to a level commensurate with the broader population so that they are able to compete effectively for apprenticeships and commercial cadetships, or to pursue further education and employment opportunities. This partnership model and related networks will be used to seek out interested communities, businesses and industry bodies willing to participate in the initiative. The outcomes will be achieved by the students themselves as participants with the active support of their families; individual schools supporting improved outcomes for the students; the businesses that offer the students workplace learning and post-school training opportunities; the TAFE/VET providers that may be engaged to deliver elements of the students' skills development; and other `auspicing' type bodies such as Indigenous education consultative bodies.

The Bill also amends the Act to provide funding to non-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations following changes in the operation of the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986. The changes, which came into force on 1 April 2001, restrict the eligibility of charities and other non-profit organisations to tax concessions to a maximum of $30,000 of the gross taxable value of the benefit per employee. This requires organisations to pay Fringe Benefits Tax at the rate of 48.5 cents in the dollar on the taxable value of these benefits - about $30,000 per employee.

This will have a significant impact on some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations which must offer competitive salary packaging to attract suitably qualified staff, especially in remote areas. The Bill provides $2.86 million over 4 years to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations can continue to provide competitive salary packages which is a significant way in which Indigenous organisations attract suitably qualified staff, especially to organisations located in remote areas. This will ensure that such organisations, and the students who are educated by those organisations, are not disadvantaged by these changes.

I commend this Bill to the Senate.

Ordered that further consideration of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the 2001 summer sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.