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Thursday, 10 February 2011
Page: 460


Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) (12:02 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I table the explanatory memoranda and seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted

The speeches read as follows—

National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011

The Government is committed to improving the quality and consistency of training across the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. A key step to achieving this is becoming more nationally consistent and rigorous in the way we register, accredit and monitor courses and providers and the way we enforce performance standards in the VET sector.

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Bill 2010 and the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2010 were introduced in the Senate on 26 November 2010. These bills will form a new statutory authority, the National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Regulator, with responsibilities and powers for the registration and audit of registered training organisations that operate in multiple jurisdictions, train international students, or operate in the territories or one of the referring states and the accreditation of courses in the VET sector.

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011 contains amendments that are required to ensure that the new regulatory framework interacts properly with other regulatory frameworks and funding programs and will amend the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000.

Specifics of consequential amendments

Consequential amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 will make the National VET Regulator the designated authority under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 for VET providers registered to deliver VET courses to overseas students. This will allow the National VET Regulator, among other things, to investigate breaches of the National Code.

The amendments will allow the government to incorporate nationally agreed English Learning Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) and Foundation program standards through legislative instrument to ensure national consistency and to protect international students. There will be a determination under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 with respect to the designated authority responsible for ensuring that providers of ELICOS and Foundation courses meet these standards.

Amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 will ensure the administration of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme can work effectively with other Commonwealth regulatory frameworks, in particular with the National VET Regulator. For example the amendments will allow the sharing of information from the relevant VET regulator, including the National VET Regulator and registering bodies in non-referring state jurisdictions for the purpose of deciding whether to approve a body as a VET provider, or to revoke or suspend a body’s approval.

The Bill also makes changes to the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to ensure that its definitions reflect the introduction of the National VET Regulator. The amended definition is not intended to alter the scope of organisations currently eligible for funding under that Act.

In conjunction with the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Bill 2010, this Bill reflects the Government’s continued commitment to improving the quality of education and training and improving the consistency of regulation across the country.


Higher Education Support Amendment (No. 1) Bill 2011

The Bill will introduce a number of streamlining measures to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (the Act) to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and maintain the ongoing integrity of the Government’s income contingent loan programs for the higher education and vocational education and training (VET) sectors, namely FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP respectively. It is now apparent that some aspects of these programs require refinement to reflect current higher education and VET sector arrangements.

The Bill will also ensure consistency with other Commonwealth regulatory frameworks including the proposed National VET Regulator expected to be established by April 2011. Furthermore, the Bill will better position the Government to implement its 2010 Budget measures announced in the Skills for Sustainable Growth Strategy, in particular, its commitment to a National Entitlement to a Quality Training Place by 1 July 2011.

FEE-HELP is available to eligible full-fee paying higher education students and VET FEE-HELP is available to eligible full-fee paying and certain state government subsidised VET students studying in higher level education or training, and provides a loan for all or part of a student’s tuition costs. This assistance is aimed at encouraging students to take up higher education and higher level skill qualifications by reducing the financial barriers associated with study.

The Bill is aimed at ensuring quality education providers can apply for and be approved as providers under the Act to be able to offer FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance. The changes will simplify administrative requirements delivering efficiencies to both providers and the Commonwealth, improve the Commonwealth’s ability to manage provider risk, increase the rate of provider approval, and therefore increase the number of students able to access income contingent loans through quality providers in both the higher education and VET sectors.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.