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Thursday, 28 November 2019
Page: 6346


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

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I am introducing the Trade Support Loans Amendment Bill. This bill will improve the administration of the Trade Support Loans (TSL) program by providing another avenue for Australian apprentices to pay overpayment debts. During the 2018-19 financial year, the Trade Support Loans Program provided financial support to 55,998 Australian apprentices to assist with everyday costs whilst completing their apprenticeship.

The measure proposed by this bill will allow TSL overpayments to be managed with minimum administrative burden on Australian apprentices.

An example of when an overpayment might occur is where an Australian apprentice temporarily ceases their apprenticeship and an instalment of TSL is made before the department is notified of the apprenticeship ceasing. In such circumstances, instead of the Australian apprentice being invoiced to repay the amount back to the Commonwealth, under this bill the delegate can reduce the amount of future payable instalments, effectively offsetting the overpayment against those instalments.

This bill will provide legislative footing for offsetting as a way of recovering overpayment debts.

The bill also aligns the TSL written notification periods to allow for more flexibility:

In respect of the notice requirements relating to the delegate's general information-gathering powers, the bill will provide the delegate with a discretion to specify a period, longer than 14 days, for notifying a change of the person's address.

In respect of the delegate's notice regarding the obligation to notify change of circumstances, the bill will also align the minimum notification period with that of the Secretary's general information-gathering powers.

The Australian public can be confident that the new offsetting arrangements will continue to support Australian apprentices whilst undertaking their apprenticeship. This bill is part of government's ongoing commitment to reducing red tape and safeguarding the integrity and reputation of its income contingent loan programs.

I commend the Bill.

Debate adjourned.