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Thursday, 18 March 2021
Page: 2698


Mr TUDGE (AstonMinister for Education and Youth) (09:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021 primarily amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003(HESA)and makes minor amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Act 2000 (ESOS Act).

Schedule 1of the bill amends HESA to expand the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to include resident return visa holders who previously held a permanent humanitarian visa. Currently, the travel component of a permanent humanitarian visa ceases after a five-year period. If a permanent humanitarian visa holder travels outside of Australia outside of that time frame, they must apply for a resident return visa to retain permanent residence in Australia. A former permanent humanitarian visa holder in this situation would no longer be eligible for a HELP loan under HESA, even though, if they had not travelled outside of the travel component of their visa, they would have retained their original visa and eligibility for HELP assistance. The resident return visa is a permanent visa, and permanent visa holders are not generally eligible for HELP.

The very intent of HELP is to make higher education more accessible to students who may not otherwise have access. As a permanent humanitarian visa holder in this situation would have retained their HELP eligibility if they had not travelled outside of their travel facility, this bill ensures permanent humanitarian visa holders can still access HELP, ensuring continued access to quality tertiary education while they are Australian residents.

Schedule1 of the billalso contains minor technical amendments to improve the clarity and operation of HESA by aligning provisions across all HELP programs for student protection measures, clarifying references to Indigenous languages, streamlining the operation of grant funding, and clarifying grandfathering arrangements.

I turn to the measures in the bill that amend the ESOS Act. The ESOS Act ensures quality education and training, provides tuition assurance and complements Australia's migration laws.

The ESOS Act amendments arise from the government's focus to ensure continuity of assistance and quality for overseas students and demonstrates the government's commitment to good governance and the effective and efficient legislative oversight of Australia's international education sector.

This bill builds on measures the Morrison government has already put in place to support the international education sector through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including significant regulatory and fee relief that has reduced red tape and simplified the regulatory environment.

In summary, the amendments will continue to protect students, keep providers focused on meeting their obligations to students and ensure the sustainability of the Overseas Students Tuition Fund.

The ESOS Act provides important protections for students. It ensures rigorous standards are applied to any course delivered to international students, beyond the existing strong domestic regulations. It protects international students' investment in an Australian education and upholds the integrity of the visa system. These requirements will remain. Overseas students will continue to receive these protections.

The measures in this bill demonstrate the government's commitment to ensuring higher education in Australia is accessible, affordable and fair and will assure the efficient functioning of HESA, the ESOS Act and the Tuition Protection Service.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.