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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26196

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (5:25 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


I am pleased to be able to announce to honourable members the final set of higher education legislation amendments for 2004.

This Bill makes two important funding adjustments. It will amend the maximum funding amounts under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme for 2005 and 2006 to continue to provide places for Commonwealth supported students in the area of radiation oncology at the University of Newcastle and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. This funding was previously made available by the Department of Health and Ageing and will now be provided by my portfolio.

The Bill also updates the annual appropriation under the Australian Research Council Act 2001, to reflect revised forward estimates.

As part of the implementation and consultation process for the new higher education reforms this Bill is a final opportunity to make some technical enhancements to the primary legislation and respond appropriately to issues raised by the sector before the end of 2004.

As part of the Australian Government's ongoing consultation with the higher education sector, this bill will allow Higher Education Providers to continue to operate their summer schools as they do now. This is an important measure which allows students to fast-track their course or make up for a failed unit of study.

This Bill will also add Melbourne University Private to the list of Table B providers under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. This will allow Melbourne University Private to access Commonwealth funding for research and FEE-HELP assistance.

This funding includes the Research Training Scheme, the Institutional Grants Scheme, grants from the Australian Research Council.

Melbourne University Private has been required to meet the quality and accountability requirements set out in the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

The Bill also makes amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to enhance the implementation of some of the higher education reforms. A number of these amendments are of particular benefit to students.

The Bill will extend access to assistance under the OS-HELP scheme. OS-HELP is an important new programme that will offer students loans of up to $5,000 per six month study period to finance overseas study. The Bill will extend eligibility for this programme to include study undertaken by students at an overseas campus of an Australian higher education provider. This will assist students undertake overseas study while also maintaining the continuity of their studies at their chosen institution. The Bill will also extend access to the programme to eligible Commonwealth supported students at all Australian higher education providers.

The Bill will also allow students more time to submit their requests for Commonwealth assistance by providing that such requests are not required until the census date.

Full details of the measures in the Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum circulated to honourable senators.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.



The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Prisoner Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2004 amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984, and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2004.

The Bill addresses operational problems identified with amendments made to the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2004, which was passed by the Parliament on 26 June 2004.

The provisions in this Bill will ensure that the legislation gives effect to the Parliament's intention by amending several provisions in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2004 that will not otherwise achieve Parliament's objective.

Under the Enrolment Integrity Act, prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment that commenced on, or before, the return of the writs for an election and which continue after the issue of the writs for any succeeding election are not entitled to be enrolled to vote. There is, however, insufficient time for the prisoners' names to be removed from the roll between the issue of the writs and the close of rolls for an election. This clearly was not the Parliament's intention.

This Bill will amend the Electoral Act to prevent prisoners who are serving a sentence of three years or more from enrolling to vote. The provisions will apply to all prisoners, including those whose sentences began before the commencement of the provisions.

For consistency with the removal of early close of rolls provisions by the Parliament, the Bill repeals items relating to the early close of rolls for referendums in the Enrolment Integrity Act that were overlooked during debate in the Senate.

Finally, the Bill clarifies the commencement of name and address evidentiary requirements for enrolment.

Ordered that further consideration of these bills be adjourned to the first 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.