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Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Page: 5068

Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaAssistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries and Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism) (15:48): I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bills and move these bills be now read a second time. I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave is granted.

The speeches read as follows—


Australia's transport sector is one the safest and most secure in the world. However the sector remains an enduring target for terrorists, and we need to do all we can to ensure that security arrangements are robust and responsive to this threat.

The Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2019 (the Bill) amends the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 (the Aviation Act) and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 (the Maritime Act) to improve the effectiveness of screening at Australia's security controlled airports and security regulated ports.

The Bill does this in two ways. Firstly, it improves the capacity of aviation security inspectors to perform their important work in testing aviation industry participants' security systems. Secondly, it will establish the framework needed to introduce a national standard of competency of aviation and maritime screening personnel.

Aviation security inspectors play a pivotal role in ensuring Australia's aviation security systems remain resilient against terrorist attacks. Inspectors test airport security systems to ensure that security obligations are being met by aviation industry participants. These tests probe for potential weak points in aviation security arrangements, and in doing so ensure that the Department of Home Affairs can act to ensure security arrangements continue to be fit for purpose. This Bill introduces measures to clarify the ability of aviation security inspectors to carry out this important work. In particular, inspectors will be able to conduct system tests with test pieces at locations beyond screening points in an airport terminal, without the risk of committing an offence against other laws.

This means that the Department will be able to expand system tests to cover a wider range of locations, security measures and aviation industry participants. For example, following passage of the Bill aviation security inspectors will expand their testing regime to include air cargo examination and catering facilities.

In addition to strengthening the ability of aviation security inspectors to fulfil their important role, we must also ensure that we have in place sound education and training requirements for security screeners.

Security screeners perform a vital role in securing our airports and seaports. They prevent weapons, such as firearms or explosives, from making it onto an aircraft or cruise ships, ensuring we can all travel safely and securely.

The Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2019 will ensure that the education, training and testing requirements for screeners remain effective and flexible in an increasingly complex security environment. It will establish the necessary framework so that screeners are well equipped to respond to threats now and into the future.

This Bill introduces measures allowing the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to prescribe the requirements associated with screeners' training, qualification and accreditation. This will allow screener requirements to be adapted efficiently in response to rapid changes in the security environment, creating a more flexible and agile workforce.

This measure responds to a 2016 Inspector of Transport Security inquiry into aviation and maritime transport security. The Inquiry highlighted a need for a specialised qualification, the introduction of national accreditation tests, on-the-job training, and continuing professional development for screening personnel. The Bill also introduces measures explicitly requiring screeners to have completed relevant training or accreditation before exercising certain powers. Currently, certain screening powers are automatically granted to screeners. This change will support industry by developing an environment where individuals can screen in some tasks when competent, while still completing training in more challenging functions.

Collectively, the amendments in this Bill will further strengthen security at Australia's airports and seaports. The Bill will assist in ensuring the safety of the thousands of Australians and international travellers who transit our ports of entry and departure daily.

I commend this bill to the Senate.


Today I introduce the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2019.

The Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector delivers outstanding education and training through a variety of institutions, through public and private registered training organisations (RTOs), within universities, and schools. It is a dynamic and responsive sector that supports millions of students to obtain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in an ever-changing economy. It provides flexible opportunities to engage in education and training as a starting point to a career pathway or as a solution to upskill or re-skill.

That is why last year this Government committed $18.1 million to support reform of the national VET regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), to improve its engagement with the sector, and increase its focus on training excellence over a minimum standards compliance regulatory approach. This Bill is the first tranche of changes to ASQA as we move the agency towards a more transparent and balanced regulator that builds quality and capacity in the VET sector.

ASQA has a wide range of legislated responsibilities important to the success of the Australian VET sector, including registering and monitoring some 4,000 RTOs, accrediting courses, undertaking compliance audits, collecting and distributing information about VET and taking appropriate regulatory actions. It is important that we have a trusted, respected and independent regulator that takes action to protect students and ensure confidence in the quality of training.

This bill responds to recommendations from both the 2018 Braithwaite Review into ASQA's primary legislation and the 2019 Joyce Review into vocational education and training, to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose and supports ASQA and the sector in delivering quality VET services.

To this end, the Bill strengthens registration requirements for RTOs to ensure only those RTOs genuinely committed and adequately resourced are able to operate in the sector. As such, organisations applying to ASQA to become registered will be aware of the high expectations placed on them and the need to show they are prepared and committed to providing high quality training from the first day their doors open and throughout their registration. Further, the Bill introduces a new requirement on RTOs to notify ASQA when significant changes to their business are likely to occur. This will ensure ASQA has better and more timely information about a RTO's operations, assisting ASQA to mitigate risks to students and VET quality.

Improving the transparency of ASQA's regulatory actions will ensure the sector has confidence in the ability of the regulator to make appropriate, consistent and proportionate regulatory decisions. To achieve this, the Bill provides for the publication of audit reports, expands information entered on the publicly available National Register as well as enabling ASQA to share information electronically with others responsible for administering laws relating to VET. ASQA will also be able to authorise the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) to disclose information that would reasonably inform a person's choice to enrol in VET and that would encourage compliance or improvement in training quality. In addition, the Secretary of the Department responsible for VET will be able to release information on students' and employers' experiences of training provided by RTOs. This information will assist students in making informed enrolment decisions and provide employers with better information about training quality. Combined, these measures will ensure students are informed and protected through the availability of consistent and transparent information about RTO services and ASQA's regulatory assessments of training organisations.

To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ASQA's operations the Bill makes amendments to enable ASQA to request documents in electronic form and expands its powers to use enforceable undertakings to take action against a RTO where it deems an undertaking is more effective, aligning it with similar powers of other regulatory regimes. In addition, ASQA will have powers to stay regulatory decisions if a RTO seeks internal review by ASQA, providing flexibility to support training delivery so students' studies are not interrupted during a review process.

To ensure the Minister responsible for VET is able to respond effectively to sector issues, the Bill clarifies the nature of directions the Minister may issue to ASQA to improve its regulatory processes. This will assist the Minister to support and direct ASQA without impinging on the statutory independence of the regulator.

Improvements to the efficiency of the NVETR Act will enable a simpler and faster acting appointment process for ASQA Commissioners. The Chief Commissioner is ASQA's Chief Executive Officer, so there is a high risk of complications if unexpected circumstances mean that there is a vacancy in that office. The Bill will enable the Minister to appoint a Commissioner to act as Deputy Chief Commissioner during a vacancy in the office or whilst the Deputy Chief Commissioner is absent from duty. As a result, the Deputy or acting Deputy Chief Commissioner will automatically act as the Chief Commissioner where there is a vacancy in the office of the Chief Commissioner. Further, the Minister may also appoint an acting Commissioner. These changes will improve appointment timeframes to ensure ASQA can continue to operate effectively and with a quorum.

The Bill also aligns ASQA reporting requirements with broader Commonwealth requirements. Currently information required in the annual operational plan is also required in the corporate plan pursuant to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Bill will remove the duplication and allow the corporate plan to reflect the most current information for the plan to take effect from 1 July annually. The Bill also makes minor administrative changes to update definitions and streamline the operation of the Act.

A quality vocational education and training sector protects students, is responsive to industry, has a strong and balanced regulator and supports students to obtain the skills they need to succeed in a modern economy. This Bill is a critical element in the Government's reform to ASQA's regulatory approach and will improve confidence in the regulation of training across the sector. It will ensure ASQA has the legislative support to continue to be an effective and responsive regulator. Streamlining processes, increasing scrutiny of new entrants to the market and ensuring ongoing capacity to deliver quality training will benefit Australia's VET sector. Improvements to transparency of information and access will assist VET students to make informed decisions about their future and will provide better oversight for ASQA to monitor RTO activities. This Bill supports the continuous commitment of this Government to improve regulation and quality of the VET sector.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.