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Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Page: 9465


Mr TEHAN (WannonMinister for Education) (09:36): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2018 and the associated Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2018 give effect to Higher Education Loan Program, or HELP, cost recovery measures in the higher education sector. This is consistent with the Australian Government Charging Framework.

The 2018-19 federal budget includes HELP cost recovery measures (an annual charge and an application fee) affecting higher education providers, which are the subject of this bill.

Part 1 of schedule 1 to the bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to put in place an application fee on applicants seeking approval as higher education providers under the act. The fee will be applied from 1 January 2019. The level of the application fee will be set in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines, at an amount that will recover the government's full costs of administration and assessment of applications from prospective providers.

Part 2 of schedule 1 to the bill also amends the Higher Education Support Act to reflect the introduction of an annual charge on higher education providers under the Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2018.

The annual charge will partially recover from higher education providers the costs incurred by the Commonwealth in administering the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP programs.

The amendments will require a higher education provider to pay the annual charge as and when it falls due, as a condition of their continued approval under the act.

The amendments will also enable the Higher Education Provider Guidelines to set out the administrative detail of collection and recovery of the annual charge; for example, when assessment notices will be given to providers, whether there are penalties associated with late payment of the charge, and when and how extensions of time to pay the charge can be given.

The HELP cost recovery measures announced in this year's federal budget will ensure consistency and fairness across the whole of the tertiary education sector, as similar charging measures already exist in the vocational education and training sector.

The HELP cost recovery measures are consistent with the Australian Government Charging Framework and link the cost of services to those who benefit from them.

In this case, the higher education providers will be required to meet the cost for the regulatory arrangements from revenues they raise from students.

Currently these costs are borne by the general public. It also raises awareness with the higher education sector of the costs incurred to the Commonwealth for administering HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP programs, and the costs of assessing applications from prospective FEE-HELP providers.

The HELP cost recovery measures are expected to provide a combined estimated saving of $14.1 million over the 2018-19 to 2021-22 period for both charges. This is an amount that the general taxpayer will not have to bear.

The government is in the process of finalising a cost recovery implementation statement on the HELP cost recovery measures for consultation with the higher education sector.

It is anticipated that the cost recovery implementation statement will be released for consultation with the higher education sector soon.

This will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to submit their feedback and comments on the HELP cost recovery measures, including the method and amounts of the cost recovery charges.

After consultation with the higher education sector has been completed, the method of calculation of the annual charge will be settled and prescribed in regulations, and the application fee amount will be settled and prescribed in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines, along with the administrative processes for collection and recovery of the annual charge.

Subject to the passage of this bill and the Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2018, the HELP cost recovery measures are to commence from 1 January 2019.

However, higher education providers will not be issued an invoice for the annual charge for the 2019 calendar year until 2020, after reconciliation of higher education providers' HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP student enrolment data has occurred.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.