Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 45

Senator George Campbell to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the time for the presentation of the report of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian military justice system be extended to 10 May 2005.

Senator Watson to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit be authorised to hold a public meeting during the sitting of the Senate on Wednesday, 16 March 2005, from noon to 1.30 pm, to take evidence for the committee’s inquiry into the review of Auditor-General’s reports.

Senator Brandis to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the time for the presentation of the report of the Economics Legislation Committee on the 2004-05 additional estimates be extended to 16 March 2005.

Senator Stott Despoja to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Senate—

(a)   notes that:

(i)   on 17 February 2005, the Senate of the United States of America (US) approved unanimously bill S.306, ‘A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment’,

(ii)   this is the second genetic non-discrimination bill to pass the US Senate,

(iii)   despite continuing advances in genetic technology, Australia still has no nationally consistent legislation dealing with genetic privacy and non-discrimination,

(iv)   Australia has documented cases of genetic discrimination, and

(v)   the Government has not yet established a Human Genetics Commission of Australia as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and the Australian Health Ethics Committee in recommendation 5-1 of ALRC report no. 96, ‘Essentially yours: The protection of human genetic information in Australia’, dated March 2003;

(b)   condemns the Government for failing to act on the report; and

(c)   calls on the Government to implement the recommendations of the report as a matter of urgency.

Senator Mark Bishop to move on the next day of sitting:

   That there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, no later than 3.30 pm on Wednesday, 16 March 2005, a copy of the letter from the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs sent in August 2004 to the Government of Turkey requesting road improvements near the ANZAC commemoration site at Gallipoli.

Senator Brown to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Senate opposes China’s ‘anti-secession’ laws which would mandate the use of military force if the Taiwanese people opt for independence.

Senator Brown to move on Wednesday, 16 March 2005:

   That the Senate—

(a)   notes that the Federal Government is considering a report which recommends axing the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; and

(b)   calls on the Government to rule out any such axing of the orchestra and, instead, to guarantee the future of this world renowned orchestra.

Senator FERRIS (South Australia) [3:38 PM] —On behalf of Senator Tchen and the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, I give notice that, at the giving of notices on the next day of sitting, Senator Tchen shall withdraw business of the Senate notices of motion Nos 1, 3 and 4 standing in his name for 11 sitting days after today, for the disallowance of Amendment No. 1 to the Transitional Arrangements for Students Guidelines, the OS-Help Guidelines and the Other Grants Guidelines made under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the committee’s correspondence concerning these instruments.

Leave granted.

The correspondence read as follows—

OS-Help Guidelines and the Other Grants Guidelines

2 December 2004

The Hon Brendan Nelson MP

Minister for Education, Science and Training

Suite M1.24

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I refer to the following Guidelines made under section 238-10 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 .

OS-Help Guidelines

These Guidelines specify procedures to be followed by higher education providers in the selection of students for the receipt of OS-HELP assistance and in the administration of such assistance, and specify the method for determining the number of students who may be selected for such assistance.

Clause 3.5.15 of these Guidelines requires a higher education provider to advise the Department of Education, Science and Training if the provider knows or has reason to believe that a student in receipt of OS-Help assistance has provided false or misleading information to the provider in their application for assistance. The Clause states that the provider should not discuss the matter with the student unless advised to the contrary by the Department. Neither the Clause nor the Explanatory Statement gives information about the reason for this prohibition on contact with the student. It is not clear at what stage the student will be made aware of the provider’s suspicions. Further, it is not clear whether a provider is at liberty to make inquiries of the student in order to confirm whether an initial suspicion is something that should be notified to the Department.

Other Grants Guidelines

These Guidelines specify the requirements for certain grants specified in subsection 41-10(1) of the Act. The Committee raises the following matters with regard to some of the provisions contained in these Guidelines.

Subclause 6.45.1 provides that the Department is bound by the Information Privacy Principles set out in section 14 of the Privacy Act 1988 . Subclause 6.45.2 states that the only personal information collected by the Department ‘relates to’ the name, work telephone, fax and email details of the contact officer of the higher education provider. It is not clear whether the words ‘relates to’ imply that personal information other than actual names, telephone/fax numbers and emails will be collected. The impression that other information may be collected is reinforced by subclause 6.45.3, which describes procedures that seem to contemplate a much larger collection of personal information. The Committee therefore seeks your advice about the precise scope of personal information that will be collected.

Chapter 9 of the Guidelines deals with Grants to Foster Collaboration and Reform in Higher Education. Subclause 9.15.5 provides that 20% of the allocation in each year may be reserved for consideration of proposals that are outside the competitive funding rounds. These proposals must be consistent with objectives of the programme, and they must strategically address programme priorities. Presumably the objectives are those set out in clause 9.5, but it is not clear where the programme priorities are specified. The Committee seeks your advice about where these priorities are stated and who makes the discretionary decision about the 20% of the allocation.

Clause 9.25 states that application forms and information are available on the Department’s website. It might assist users of these Guidelines if this clause included a cross-reference to the website address.

Chapter 11 of the Guidelines deals with Grants to Enhance the Quality of Australia’s Higher Education Sector. Clause 11.2 lists four bodies corporate that are eligible for grants. Subclause 11.2.10 specifies an amount of grant to the Carrick Institute for 2005 and 2006. No amounts are specified for the other three eligible bodies. The Committee therefore seeks clarification for the absence of specified grants for the other eligible bodies.

Finally, the Committee considers that some of these questions may not have been necessary had the Explanatory Statement contained an item-by-item explanation of the provisions. The Committee draws this matter to your attention as it is important that Explanatory Statements are as informative and precise as possible.

The Committee would appreciate your advice on the above matters as soon as possible, but before 22 January 2005, to enable it to finalise its consideration of these Guidelines. Correspondence should be directed to the Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Room SG49, Parliament House, Canberra.

Yours sincerely

Tsebin Tchen

Chairman


7 March 2005

Senator Tsebin Tchen

Chairman

Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Tchen

Thank you for your letter of 2 December 2004 concerning your request for clarification on a number of matters relating to the content of some of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 Guidelines. I appreciate the Committee’s input and apologise for the delay in replying.

OS-HELP Guidelines

I have noted the Committee’s concerns about the paragraph 3.5.15 of the OS-HELP guidelines, which relates to the provision of false or misleading information. It is important to note that the provision of false or misleading information is a criminal offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and the Australian Government is obliged to follow appropriate procedures when investigating possible breaches of the Code. This includes assembling evidence in a manner that protects the integrity and legal admissibility of the evidence as well as the rights of the individual being investigated. The legislation governing such investigations is technically complex and enquiries made by university staff untrained in investigative techniques could compromise the evidentiary and forensic processes, cause undress distress to people who may be affected by the investigations and expose the university to risks including the potential for civil litigation.

In any investigative process, the person under investigation generally is the last person to be notified of this fact. There are a number of reasons for this, including the need to obtain all available evidence in order to properly frame the questions to put to the person in an interview. More importantly however, it is not uncommon for persons who are prematurely made aware that they are being investigated to seek to destroy vital evidence before investigators obtain it, or to attempt to influence witnesses.

It is therefore important that university staff should not make initial enquiries of the student being investigated before notifying the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). The investigative process is all about ascertaining the facts and investigating suspicions in such a way as to be able to prove to a court of law, beyond reasonable doubt, that an offence has been committed. Alternatively, the process needs to satisfy investigating officers that no offence has been committed. This is consistent with the application of the Criminal Code provisions in other legislation.

Other Grants Guidelines

Chapter 6 Grants to assist with the cost of higher education providers’ superannuation liabilities

The Committee is seeking advice on the scope of personal information that will be collected by DEST. I can advise you that the only personal information collected by DEST from higher education providers in respect of the Superannuation Program is the same, telephone and fax numbers and e-mail address of the contact person.

Chapter 9 Grants to foster collaboration and reform in higher education

As you have point out, up to 20 per cent of the annual Collaboration and Structural Reform (CASR) allocation may be provided to projects outside of a competitive funding round. This allocation is at my discretion.

The initial priorities for CASR are detailed at item 2.2.1 of the Administrative Information for Applicants and Grant Recipients, which, with Chapter 9 of the Other Grants Guidelines and an application form, comprises the program documentation for CASR.

The initial priorities for collaboration are:

a.   in course provision between two or more providers;

b.   between vocational education and training provider/s and higher education provider/s in course provision or an area related to teaching and learning;

c.   between universities and their communities, particularly regional communities; and

d.   between universities and business/industry/employers or professional associations.

In line with your suggestion, I will ensure that a link to the application form and administrative information is added to the Guidelines in due course.

Chapter 11 Grants for activities that (a) assure and enhance the quality of Australia’s higher education sector

The Committee has asked for clarification about the inclusion of funding amounts in this chapter. The funding amounts for the Graduate Careers Council of Australia (GCCA) and the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) were not included because there is no requirement under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to do so. In particular, subsection 41-15(2)(c) of the Act states that the guidelines may specify “the amount, being part of the amount referred to in section 41-45 for a year, that will be spent on a program in that particular year”. Section 41-45 refers to the maximum payments for other grants. The grant amounts for GCCA and AUQA will be determined by the Minister under paragraph 41-30(b) of the Act.

In the case of the Carrick Institute, the funding amount was included to clarify the Commonwealth’s financial commitment to the Institute, which is a company wholly owned by the Commonwealth and which has no other source of income.

The conditions of funding for the Institute are determined in a Ministerial Determination but this is not made explicit in Chapter 11. An amendment will be made to include this information. The conditions of funding are however outlined in the Explanatory Statement.

Comments

To avoid further uncertainty in the content and status of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 Guidelines in the future, I have asked by Department to ensure that all Explanatory Statements that accompany the Guidelines and amendments to the Guidelines are as informative as possible.

Thank you for bringing these matters to my attention.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN NELSON

Minister for Education, Science and Training


Amendment No. 1 to the Transitional Arrangements for Students Guidelines

2 December 2004

The Hon Brendan Nelson MP

Minister for Education, Science and Training

Suite M1.24

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I refer to Amendment No. 1 to the Transitional Arrangements for Students Guidelines that excludes students who commenced their qualifying or preliminary course of study before 1997 from paragraph 2.5.1(b) of the Transitional Arrangements for Students Guidelines.

The commencement date of this instrument is not clear. The Explanatory Statement indicates that the instrument commences from the date of Gazettal. The Instrument was signed by the Minister on 30 August 2004. The actual Guidelines, contained in the attachment to the instrument, were signed by the Minister on 31 August 2004 (above a typed reference to ‘September 2004’). The Committee would therefore appreciate your advice on the commencement date of this instrument.

The Committee would appreciate your advice on this matter as soon as possible, but before 22 January 2005, to enable it to finalise its consideration of this Amendment. Correspondence should be directed to the Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Room SG49, Parliament House, Canberra.

Yours sincerely

Tsebin Tchen

Chairman


7 March 2005

Senator Tsebin Schen

Chairman

Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

Room SG49

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Tchen

Thank you for your letter of 2 December 2004 concerning Amendment No. 1 to the Transitional Arrangements for Students Guidelines made under items 4 and 8 of the Higher Education Support (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2003.

Your letter seeks clarification of the commencement date of this instrument. The instrument commenced on the date of Gazettal, which was 15 October 2004.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN NELSON

Minister for Education, Science and Training