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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 6972

Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth and Minister for Sport) (11:00 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you are well aware, this government is committed to an education revolution for all Australians. This covers many chapters, from early childhood education in schools to higher education, skills and training. This education revolution comes about through a number of different means: through facilities and infrastructure, through increased quality and accessibility and through enhanced funding.

This bill makes minor amendments to provide for administrative efficiencies in the operation of the FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance schemes under the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance is available to full-fee-paying students studying in higher level education or training, and provides a loan for all or part of a student’s tuition costs. This assistance is aimed at encouraging students to take up higher level skill qualifications by reducing the financial barriers associated with study. From 1 July 2009, the VET FEE-HELP assistance scheme will be extended to assist certain state government subsidised students.

This bill makes amendments to streamline the application and assessment process for higher education and training organisations applying for approval to offer FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance to students. The amendments will provide for administrative efficiencies resulting in faster approvals of higher education and VET providers, thereby giving students access to financial assistance sooner, which I think we can all agree is a good result.

In particular, the bill amends the tuition assurance provisions in the act to remove the administrative requirement for higher education and training organisations to have tuition assurance arrangements in place at the date of their application for approval to offer FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP assistance to students.

In addition, the bill provides for amendments to allow recommendations from approved national or state based agencies to be used as part of the assessment and approval of training organisations to deliver VET FEE-HELP assistance. This will help to eliminate duplication between Commonwealth and state and territory agencies, and reduce the cost and time taken to assess a training organisation’s application.

These amendments deliver increased efficiencies in the administration of the FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance schemes, making it easier and faster for higher education and training organisations to be approved to offer assistance to students.

Whilst these are minor amendments, they do provide important changes and improvements to the systems. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Pearce) adjourned.