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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9579

Senator LAZARUS (Queensland) (10:49): I, and also on behalf of Senator Muir, move amendment (1) on sheet 7835:

(1) Amendment (13), item 12, omit subsection 45D(2), substitute:

Credits to the VET provider ' s VET FEE -HELP account

   (2) A credit arises in the *VET provider's *VET FEE-HELP account as follows:

   (a) if the VET provider is already a VET provider on 1 January 2015, a credit arises on the first day of each later calendar year that is equal to the amount worked out under subclause (3);

   (b) if the VET provider becomes a VET provider during 2015, a credit arises on the first day of each later calendar year that is equal to the amount worked out under subclause (4);

   (c) if the VET provider becomes a VET provider on a day after 2015, a credit arises on that day that is equal to the amount worked out under subclause (5);

   (d) if the VET provider pays on a particular day any part of any amount that becomes due under subclause 45E(2), a credit arises on that day that is equal to the amount of that payment;

   (e) if another body ceases to be a VET provider, a credit may arise:

      (i) in accordance with a determination under subclause (6) at the time of the cessation; and

      (ii) that is equal to the amount worked out under that determination;

   (f) if the *Secretary, on application by the VET provider, is satisfied on a particular day that:

      (i) the VET provider is offering a VET course of study that confers skills in an identified area of national importance; and

      (ii) the course is relevant for employment in a licensed occupation; and

      (iii) one or more students are unable to readily access training places in courses of this kind with any other VET provider; and

      (iv) insufficient credits have arisen in the VET provider's VET FEE-HELP account for an appropriate number of students to undertake the course with the VET provider; and

      (v) granting an extra credit of a particular amount is appropriate (which need not be the amount specified in the application);

the Secretary may grant a credit, which arises on that day, that is equal to the amount considered appropriate under subparagraph (v).

I support the bill because I want to curb the rorting that is happening in this sector, but I am concerned about the impact of the bill on important and honest operators and training sectors in this country. This bill may have unintended consequences on industry training sectors such as the aviation training sector. The world is experiencing exponential growth in the aviation sector. The demand for qualified commercial pilots is expected to double in the years to come. Australia is considered one of the best providers of commercial pilot training in the world. We have eight commercial pilot training schools in Australia, several of which are based in my home state of Queensland. The aviation sector is highly regulated and unique. Due to the nature of the industry and the growing demand for pilots, the aviation training industry is expensive and in a strong growth phase. It is therefore important that this bill includes a provision for the secretary of the department to have the discretion to provide additional credits to industries and/or organisations which are considered to be of national importance and which meet certain requirements.

I would like to thank the minister for listening to my concerns in relation to the aviation training sector and for committing to support my amendment. It is imperative that we support this sector and that we ensure it is exempt from the potentially harmful, unintended impacts of the bill. We need to ensure that the sector is allowed to grow, that Australian men and women are able to pursue careers as commercial pilots, and that we support an important and growing training industry which provides jobs and economic benefits for this great country, Australia.

Australian men and women pay a lot of money to undertake training to become commercial pilots. The first stages of training involve undertaking a recreational pilots licence and then a private pilots licence, all of which are funded by the student. These are very expensive courses and can cost students up to $30,000 or more. These courses are funded by students, out of their own pockets—not by the taxpayers. Once students have completed these courses, they can then undertake a commercial pilots licence course, which is eligible for funding under VET FEE-HELP. Commercial pilots licence courses can cost up to $90,000. There is no doubt the level of safety, compliance and risk associated in deliver of the commercial pilots licence course results in high costs. Despite this, Australia is still much cheaper in this area of training than the rest of the world, and people come from all over the world to undertake commercial pilots licence training in Australia.

It is for this reason that I will not be supporting Labor's amendments, which seek to put a cap on VET FEE-HELP for students. The cap will cripple the aviation and training sector and put aviation completely out of reach for most Australians. This means that men and women and boys and girls across the country will no longer be able to undertake a commercial pilots licence training. Only the ultra-rich and famous will be able to become commercial pilots in this country. The pipeline of Australian pilots will definitely dry up. Our airlines will no longer be able to source Australian pilots. Our airlines will be forced to employ overseas pilots. The aviation sector is a unique sector and, unfortunately, it will be hardest hit by this bill. If we look at the aviation training sector we see that most course providers generate less than 30 per cent of the revenue from VET FEE-HELP compared to other providers and industries that generate 100 per cent of their revenue through the VET FEE-HELP scheme.

In summary, I will not be supporting Labor's amendments. I thank the government for supporting my amendments, which will ensure that the aviation sector, and every Australian's dream of becoming a commercial pilot, is not inadvertently damaged as a result of this bill. I commend my amendments to the Senate.