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Thursday, 28 November 2019
Page: 6347

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Mr IRONS (SwanAssistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships) (10:13): I» «move» :

That this bill «be» «now» «read» «a» «second» «time .

The Student Identifiers Amendment (Enhanced Student Permissions) Bill 2019 (the bill) expands the range of entities that may request access to an individual's authenticated vocational education and training (VET) transcript. It also: creates a civil penalty and infringement notice regime, clarifies the Student Identifiers Registrar's power to grant an exemption to the requirement to hold a student identifier and clarifies spending powers associated with the Student Identifiers Special Account.

The nature of work in Australia is changing. Australia's capacity to grow, compete and thrive in a global economy has become more dependent on employers and all individuals, regardless of background or circumstance, being able to access and use the right skills at the right time.

The Australian government is strengthening our VET system to be a modern, flexible and trusted sector that provides an excellent standard of education and training. A strong vocational education and training sector is critical to our economy and to helping prepare Australians for the workforce opportunities of today and the future.

This bill supports transparency for employers looking to verify VET their employees or potential employees have undertaken.

An authenticated VET transcript includes information about any VET courses, modules or units of competency undertaken by an individual after 1 January 2015.

Individuals with a student identifier can access their national training record in the form of an authenticated VET transcript through the student identifiers transcript service. The student identifier helps students to keep track of the skills they have acquired and to share that information with employers. Over 1.3 million training participants have accessed their transcripts since the service became available in May 2017. Industry has indicated that combining an individual's VET information into one document has saved time for businesses.

Since the activation of authenticated VET transcripts, employers, employment agencies and state, territory and Commonwealth licensing bodies have shown an interest in being able to verify an individual's authenticated VET transcript. However, this is not currently supported by the Student Identifiers Act 2014.

Although individuals set access controls at present, they can only give access to a registered training organisation or a VET related body.

This bill enables this student controlled access to transcripts to be extended to businesses, recruitment agencies, licensing bodies and other third parties.

This change provides confidence to industry on the authenticity of VET qualifications and reduces regulatory burden for the individual and third parties—for instance, streamlining recruitment processes and reducing the costs to businesses, small, medium and large, and other bodies that rely on individuals having the right credentials.

These arrangements also reduce the risk of individuals tampering with their transcript before providing it to an employer.

While the amendments proposed by the bill will enable a broader range of entities to request access to an individual's authenticated VET transcript, the individual's privacy will remain protected. In particular, individuals will retain the authority to set the access controls for their stored authenticated VET transcript. This includes setting the period that an authenticated transcript can be viewed as well as the removal of access to their stored authenticated VET transcript at any time.

A privacy impact assessment was conducted for this initiative. All recommendations have been agreed to and are being implemented.

The bill introduces a civil penalty regime to protect the integrity of the student identifiers initiative and to act as a deterrent to fraudulent behaviours in the sector relating to authenticated VET transcripts and student identifiers.

The amendments will enable the Student Identifiers Registrar to commence civil penalty proceedings or to issue infringement notices in respect of:

knowingly applying for more than one student identifier,

applying for a student identifier on behalf of an individual without their authorisation,

altering authenticated VET transcripts and extracts of authenticated VET transcripts, and

making a false document purporting to be an authenticated VET transcript or extract.

An accessible, high-quality VET sector that is responsive to industry needs will give Australians the chance to succeed, to build a career and fulfilling life for themselves and their families.

An estimated four million Australians build and enhance their skills by undertaking vocational education and training every year. All individuals undertaking nationally recognised training need to have a student identifier issued by the Student Identifiers Registrar. This includes individuals enrolled in a VET course while completing their secondary school studies. Over 10 million student identifiers have now been created.

The bill makes it clear that the Student Identifiers Registrar has the power to determine by exemption whether a VET qualification or VET statement of attainment can be issued by a registered training organisation to an individual who does not have a student identifier.

To ensure they do not unknowingly miss out on the benefits of having a student identifier, the individual will need to declare they understand the consequences of not being assigned a student identifier in their application to the Student Identifiers Registrar, including being unable to generate an authenticated VET transcript.

Further minor amendments clarify the Student Identifiers Registrar's powers to spend in relation to the purposes of the Student Identifiers Special Account. This will ensure efficient administration of the student identifiers scheme.

To remove ambiguity about sharing information with law enforcement bodies, the bill notes that the Student Identifiers Registrar can disclose information in an authenticated VET transcript in accordance with Australian Privacy Principle 6. APP 6 permits disclosure for enforcement related activities.

A strong VET sector will provide positive economic and social outcomes and will encourage more students to choose VET as a pathway to a rewarding and exciting career. This will support millions of Australians to obtain the skills they need to participate and prosper in the modern economy.

Closing information gaps and improving the transparency of the training sector will increase confidence in VET and make more information available to training consumers, industry, registered training organisations, regulators and governments.

The ability for employers, employment agencies, and state, territory and Commonwealth licensing bodies to verify an individual's academic record will increase transparency of the VET sector and reduce regulatory burden during employment recruitment exercises and funding requests, making it easier to verify VET qualifications. This initiative will provide confidence to industry on the authenticity of VET qualifications while keeping information under the control of the individual.

I commend the bill.

Debate adjourned.