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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9581


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (10:55): I am very happy to point Senator Carr to the details of the amendments. The amendments amend the government's amendments. We have been discussing this morning the fact that one of the government's amendments provides a cap on the value of loans that a provider may write in 2016 and caps that value of loans at a 2015 level. These amendments provide scope for limited exemptions to that cap. The scope is very tightly controlled, though.

The VET provider, having demonstrated that they are going to hit the cap and not be able to enrol anymore students under VET FEE-HELP must then demonstrate that they are, firstly, offering a course of study that confers skills in an identified area of national importance; secondly, that the course is relevant for employment in a licensed occupation. So just highlight that one, Senator Carr.

Senator Kim Carr: I certainly will.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: A licensed occupation, Senator Carr—a very narrow band in that category. Then, of course, they must also demonstrate that the students are not able to readily able to access training places in courses of this kind with any other VET provider. So if, Senator Carr, you are living in Brisbane—seeing as these are Senator Lazarus's amendments—and you are a student who wishes to study aviation and the aviation providers in Brisbane have already hit their cap in relation to the number of places they can offer under VET FEE-HELP, those providers would be able to make application to the secretary to have that cap lifted for a specified amount—not unlimited, by any means, but a specified amount. This is very much akin to the kind of contracting arrangement for such an extension that you might have encouraged me to contemplate before. So they can make application to have that cap lifted for a specified amount if they can demonstrate that the skill is in an area of national importance, that it is relevant for employment in a licensed occupation, that students cannot access it anywhere else and, of course, that they have hit the cap.

So insofar as this creates an opportunity for exemption to the overall cap, it is an incredibly tightly prescribed exemption that really is only to ensure that we do not end up with the type of scenario that Senator Lazarus has described in his comments, where we had an inadvertent consequence of insufficient pilot training, for example, occurring in Australia.