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Thursday, 4 July 2019
Page: 302


Mr TEHAN (WannonMinister for Education) (11:24): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2019 gives effect to the annual charge cost recovery measure in the higher education sector, consistent with the Australian government charging framework.

This separate bill is required to provide for an annual charge to be applied on higher education providers, which is separate from education legislation.

The 2018-19 federal budget included an annual charge cost recovery measure affecting higher education providers, which is the subject of this bill.

The bill implements an annual charge on all higher education providers whose students are entitled to HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP assistance under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. The annual charge will partially recover the costs incurred by the Commonwealth each year in administering the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP programs from the higher education providers.

The bill does not set the amount of the annual charge, which will be prescribed by the regulations. It is anticipated the amount of the charge will depend in part on the size of the providers, determined by the number of enrolments per year.

The 2019-20 federal budget included a one year delay to the commencement of the annual charge. Therefore, the annual charge will commence from 1 January 2020, and higher education providers will receive their invoice for the annual charge for the 2020 calendar year in 2021, after reconciliation of higher education providers' HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP student enrolment data has occurred.

The annual charge measure announced in the 2018-19 federal budget will ensure consistency and fairness across the whole of the tertiary education sector, as a similar charging measure already operates in the vocational education and training sector. In this case, partially recovering the costs of the annual charge reduces the impact of the annual charge on all higher education providers.

The annual charge measure is consistent with the Australian government charging framework and links 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 increases awareness with the higher education sector of the costs incurred by the Commonwealth in administering HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP programs.

Associated amendments will also be made to the Higher Education Support Act to reflect the annual charge measure, set out in the Higher Education Support (Cost Recovery) Bill 2019.

Subject to the passage of this bill and the Higher Education Support (Cost Recovery) Bill 2019, the annual charge measure is to commence from 1 January 2020—although 2020 charges will not be issued until May 2021.

I commend the bill.

Debate adjourned.