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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5170

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (12:54 PM) —I would like to speak on a separate matter. I have a letter from the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Kate Ellis, in relation to the arrangements and agreements that we have been able to come to, and I seek leave to table that document.

Leave granted.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —I indicate that, based on these arrangements and some amendments to the guidelines, the Greens would be happy to support the legislation. The minister and the government have taken on board the issues in relation to the need for compliance, accountability and transparency. While we would have liked to have seen something specific, the minister has outlined that there will be the need for higher education providers to sign-off on a compliance certificate at the end of each financial year, outlining exactly where student money has been spent and providing a balance sheet. This will ensure that students can see where their money is being spent and then advocate whether they have any concerns about that to their institution.

We were obviously very concerned that higher education providers would simply decide where and when they believed advocacy and representation was important, and that they could pick and choose certain groups. We were very concerned that there was no explicit mention of the three broad groups of students who all have various different needs, that there was a need to ensure that any welfare and support services covered them and that this money gets spent in ways that support them. They are, of course, undergraduate, postgraduate and international students. The minister has taken those issues on board and has amended the guidelines to reflect that, including ensuring that we have the election of student representatives from those three separate groups, which is very, very important to ensure that international students and postgraduate students have elected representative voices, as do undergraduate students. It was very important for us to ensure that none of these groups, who are all going to be paying the money, were left out. They have different needs and we need to ensure that they have the opportunity to voice their concerns and advocate for their different needs and issues. I thank the minister and the government, and I hope that that letter has now been circulated.