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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 24


Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (11:07 AM) —by leave—I move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) and (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2004, allowing it to be considered during this period of sittings.

Question agreed to.


Senator KEMP —I table a statement of reasons justifying the need for this bill to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will make amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Higher Education Support (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2003 to enable the provision of OS-HELP assistance, cross-institutional study, the repayment of advances and special purpose grants, and other technical adjustments to enhance the implementation of the higher education reforms; amend funding cap amounts in Part 7 of the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to update forward estimates; and make minor amendments to the Australian National University Act 1991.

Reasons for Urgency

It is important that the proposed amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Higher Education Support (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2003 are passed in the 2004 Spring sittings given that higher education providers are implementing several complex reforms and new programmes towards the end of 2004 and require certainty in the legislative framework before the beginning of the 2005 calendar year. Also, students who will be seeking Commonwealth assistance in 2005 require accurate information to be provided to them before the beginning of the 2005 calendar year.

Delay in passage of this Bill until the Autumn sittings of 2005 will have a significantly negative impact on higher education providers and students. Several of the issues involving student support may become politically sensitive if amendments are not passed by the beginning of 2005, as thousands of students may be disadvantaged. In particular, the cross-institutional study provisions are highly sensitive, as students already enrolled in this manner may inadvertently cease to become Commonwealth supported in 2005 if the amendments are not made. Similarly, the OS-HELP provisions are necessary to enable students to access OS-HELP loans in 2005.

There may also be financial implications to the Commonwealth through the non-repayment of advances and special purpose grants.

It is important that the proposed amendments to the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (ARC Act) in the Bill are passed in the 2004 Spring sittings to enable the ARC to be funded at the correct levels for 2005. It is also important that the annual appropriation amounts for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme be amended to provide funding for radiation oncology places beginning in 2005 at the University of Newcastle and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology as Commonwealth supported students, under an agreement with the Department of Health and Ageing.

It is also important that the Australian National University Act 1991 be amended to give the Minister the flexibility to consider appointments to the ANU Council in a timely and appropriate manner.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Education, Science and Training)