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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8556

Senator Ludwig to move on the next day of sitting:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to ( 8) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period:

Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Amendment Bill 2009

Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2009.

I also table statements of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statements incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statements read as follows—

Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Amendment Bill 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill amends the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 to clarify that the foreign investment screening regime applies equally to all foreign investments irrespective of the way they are structured.

Reasons for Urgency

On 12 February 2009, the Treasurer announced that the Government will amend the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 to clarify the operation of the foreign investment screening regime.  In particular, the amendments will ensure that any investment, including through instruments such as convertible notes, will be treated as equity for the purposes of the Act. 

These amendments will apply retrospectively from the date of the Treasurer’s announcement.  Introduction and passage of this Bill in the 2009 Spring sittings will ensure that the Government has the capacity to examine all investment proposals that could potentially be against Australia’s national interest.  Delaying the passage of this Bill may potentially cause confusion for prospective foreign investors wishing to invest in Australia.

Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to provide for student services and amenities fees and associated loans for students.

Reasons for urgency

The bill will enable higher education providers to charge a student services and amenities fee and for eligible students to access Services and Amenities-HELP (SA-HELP) loans from the Australian Government to pay their fees. The Government announced on 3 November 2008 that it will allow higher education providers to charge a compulsory student services and amenities fee, capped at a maximum of $250 per annum (indexed).

The Government will provide access to a new element of the Higher Education Loan Program, SA-HELP, enabling eligible students to take out a loan for the payment of the student services and amenities fee.   It is intended that higher education providers would not be able to charge a fee if they do not also provide access to SA-HELP.

In order to implement the fee and loan scheme, higher education providers will require upgrades to their IT systems in advance of the fee being charged, including implementation of electronic forms for SA-HELP to administer the new loan.  

Prior to the commencement of the fee and loan, new student information pamphlets and Commonwealth assistance forms must be developed, printed and ready for distribution to higher education providers to be available to students.   Guidelines will need to be made under the new provisions to enable administrative arrangements to be finalised.

Additional data elements for the Higher Education Information Management System for the administration of the fee and SA-HELP will also have to be issued by Ministerial notice, following passage of the amendment with sufficient lead time for providers.

Generally the higher education sector expects that the Department will provide 12 months notice of any changes/new reporting requirements, particularly where system modifications are required, to allow for development timeframes, including software supplier negotiations.

A Ministerial Notice to determine the reporting requirements for SA-HELP can only be made following the passage of legislation and the development of guidelines for the program.   If legislation is not passed and guidelines not finalised as soon as possible, this would prevent timely implementation of this initiative.