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Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill 1999

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1998-99

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1999

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs,

the Hon Dr David Kemp MP)



HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1999

OUTLINE

The Higher Education Funding Act 1988 (HEFA) makes provision for grants of financial assistance to higher education institutions and other bodies for higher education purposes, establishes the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and the Open Learning Deferred Payment Scheme (OLDPS) and makes provision for the repayment of monies lent by the Commonwealth to students under those schemes.  It also provides for the funding of certain institutions of higher education and associated bodies, and for related purposes.

 

The Bill amends HEFA to:

·          Implement voluntary student unionism by preventing any institution receiving grants under section 15 or 16 from making it a condition of enrolment that a student be a member of any association.  In addition, institutions receiving such grants may not make it a condition of enrolment that a student pay any compulsory fee not directly related to the educational courses the student is enrolled in at the institution;

·          Repeal sections 25A and 25B to remove the Minister’s discretion to approve direct funding of student organisations under the Student Organisation Support (SOS) Program;

·          Build on the streamlining arrangements for applications for remission of debt under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and the Open Learning Deferred Payment Scheme (OLDPS), introduced by the Higher Education Funding Amendment Act (No 1) 1997 ;

·          Add the University of the Sunshine Coast to Table A to enable the university to receive Commonwealth funding as an independent institution and not one operating under the sponsorship of the Queensland University of Technology;

·          Reflect the name change of James Cook University of North Queensland to James Cook University; and

·          Make a minor technical amendment to subsection 106Q(1).

The Bill also makes a consequential amendment to the States Grants (General Purposes) Act 1994 to repeal subsection 15(1) so that funds paid under the SOS Program can no longer be recovered by the Treasurer from States Grants.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Nil.

 



 

HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1999

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

 

 

Clause 1 - Short Title

 

Clause 1 provides for this Act to be cited as the Higher Education Legislation Amendment Act 1999 .

 

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

Clause 2 provides for this Act to commence on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.

 

 

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

 

Clause 3 provides that each Act that is specified in a Schedule is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable Schedule.



 

SCHEDULE 1-INSTITUTIONS

 

 

Item 1

 

Amends Table A in subsection 4(1) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 to reflect the name change of James Cook University of North Queensland to James Cook University.

 

 

Item 2

 

Amends subsection 4(1) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 by inserting the University of the Sunshine Coast in Table A, thereby making the university an institution eligible for funding under the Act.

 



SCHEDULE 2-NOTICE OF DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR DEBT REMISSION

 

 

1.         Background

 

Section 106L of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 gives the Secretary the power to remit the whole or part of a Higher Education Contribution (HEC) semester debt (subsection 106L(1)) (“HEC semester debt”) or an Open Learning study period debt (subsection 106L(2)) (“OL debt”).  Subsection 106L(4) provides that on receiving the application for remission of a debt the Secretary must as soon as practicable consider the application and then notify the applicant of the decision.  Subsection 106L(5) sets out the requirements for the notice of decision. 

 

 

2.                   Explanation of the changes

 

Item 1

 

Inserts a new section 106LA in the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 to specify how a notice of decision by the Secretary in relation to an application to remit either a HEC semester debt (subsection 106LA(1)) or an OL debt (subsection 106LA(2)) is to be given.  The section would provide that notices may be given by personal delivery to a person authorised by the applicant, by post at an address notified to the Secretary and where the Secretary has not been notified - by post at the last known residential address of the applicant.  The new section also makes provision for notices posted overseas and would deem when a notice sent by post shall be taken to have been received. 

 

New subsection 106LA(1) would specify that the notice of decision by the Secretary concerning an application under subsections 106LA(1) or 106LA(2) is to be in writing.

 

New subsection 106LA(2) would provide that the notice may be delivered personally to the applicant. 

 

New subsection 106LA(3) would provide that the notice may be delivered personally to a person authorised by the applicant to receive the notice. 

 

Where the applicant has notified the Secretary in writing of an address where the notice can be sent, new subsection 106LA(4) would provide that the notice may be delivered by post to that address or by leaving it at the address.   

 

Where the applicant has not notified the Secretary in writing of an address where the notice can be sent, new subsection 106LA(5) would provide that the notice may be delivered by post to the last-known residential address of the applicant or by leaving it with a person who appears to live at that address and who appears to be over 16 years old.

 

New subsection 106LA(6) would provide that a notice is only sent by post where it is posted as a letter and the correct postage has been pre-paid. 

 

New subsection 106LA(7) would define the correct postage for notices posted outside of Australia.  It would provide that if a notice is sent by post outside of Australia the correct postage is the full air mail rate.

 

New subsection 106LA(8) would deem when a notice that was posted is taken to have been received.  In the case of a notice sent to an address in Australia - the seventh day after the day when it was posted.  In the case of a notice sent to an address outside of Australia - on the 21 st day after the day when it was posted.

 

 

Item 2

 

Provides that the new section 106LA of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 will apply to notices of decisions made after the commencement of that section (ie. the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent, by the operation of clause 2 above).

 



SCHEDULE 3-TECHNICAL AMENDMENT

 

 

Item 1

 

This is a statute law revision matter which seeks to correct a minor technical error.  It replaces the “If” in subsection 106Q(1) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 with “if”. 

 

In order to assist in reading the Act, item 1 also inserts the following new heading to section 106PA:  “Repayment of debts other than HEC assessment debts”.

 



SCHEDULE 4-NO GRANTS TO SUPPORT STUDENT ORGANISATIONS

 

 

Item 1

 

Repeals sections 25A and 25B of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 to remove the Minister’s discretion to approve direct Commonwealth funding of student organisations under the Student Organisation Support Program.

 

 

Item 2

 

Under section 119 of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 the Minister is required to cause a report to be laid before each House of Parliament setting out particulars of any amounts determined by the Minister under a number of sections including section 25A.  As no payments have been made since January 1996 under section 25A the requirement for a report will no longer exist after the repeal of the section by item 1 and reference to section 25A can be omitted from section 119.

 

 

Item 3

 

Repeals section 15 of the States Grants (General Purposes) Act 1994 .  That section provides that funds made available under the Student Organisation Support Program can be recovered from States Grants payments at the discretion of the Treasurer.

 

 

 



SCHEDULE 5-GRANT CONDITIONS FOR VOLUNTARY STUDENT UNIONISM

 

 

1.         Background

 

Sections 15 and 16 of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 provide for grants of financial assistance to institutions for expenditure for operating purposes and limited operating purposes respectively (operating grants).  Section 18 specifies the conditions under which operating grants are made to institutions.  Where an institution fails to fulfil a section 18 condition, financial assistance may be recovered from the institution by the Commonwealth (in whole or in part) under section 108.

 

 

2.         Explanation of the changes

 

The amendments made by this Schedule are intended to ensure the adoption of voluntary student unionism (including the elimination of compulsory student fees not directly related to educational courses) by all institutions and the new paragraphs 18(1)(da) and 18(1)(db) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 should be construed accordingly.

 

 

Items 1-3 and 5

 

Clarify that it is the intention that institutions must comply with all the grant conditions specified in subsection 18(1).

 

 

Item 4

 

Inserts new paragraphs 18(1)(da) and 18(1)(db) which have the effect of making voluntary student unionism and voluntary student fees additional conditions which institutions must comply with to receive grants of financial assistance under sections 15 and 16. 

 

Paragraph 18(1)(da) has the effect of making it a grant condition that institutions do not require enrolling students to be or to become a member of an association, while paragraph 18(1)(db) has the effect of making it a grant condition that an institution does not collect from an enrolling student any compulsorily payable amount not directly related to the educational courses the student is enrolling in at the institution.

 

 

Item 6

 

Provides that the amendments made by this Schedule apply in relation to a grant made under section 15 or 16 for the year 2000 or a later year.