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Wednesday, 9 March 2005
Page: 96

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues) (4:08 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I am pleased to announce that the majority of the new arrangements of the Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future package for higher education reform came into effect on 1 January 2005 and the benefits of those reforms will become increasingly apparent over the next 12 months and into the future.

The Australian Government’s reforms of the higher education sector have taken place in the context of a strong and undiminished commitment of public support. This bill now before the Senate represents a clear expression of that support, as it will honour a number of election commitments for much needed places and funding across the country.

These commitments include 100 new radiation therapy places as part of the Strengthening Cancer Care package, $2 million in infrastructure funding for Charles Darwin University for improved information technology, and $12 million in infrastructure funding for the establishment of a new school for Veterinary Science and Agriculture at James Cook University.

Other funding measures in this bill include 40 additional aged care nursing places, extra funding for the additional 12 medical places at James Cook University for the years 2005-2009; $16.5 million in increased National Institute funding for the Australian National University; and a transfer of monies in relation to the establishment of the National Centre for Marine and Coastal Conservation at the Australian Maritime College’s Point Nepean Campus.

This bill also provides for a number of legislative housekeeping measures.

It will extend the eligibility for capital development funding grants to higher education providers listed in Table B of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

The bill will also ensure that, where a Higher Education Provider who is subject to the tuition assurance requirements under the Act ceases to be able to provide a unit of study, students will have their Student Learning Entitlement and FEE-HELP balances re-credited. These technical adjustments are necessary to protect the interests of students, should a private provider be unable to deliver higher education units.

The bill will also make some minor amendments to the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 as part of the transition to the new legislative framework.

Finally, this bill will amend the Maritime College Act 1978 to ensure that the Australian Maritime College complies with the National Governance Protocols this year. Compliance with the protocols will enable the College to receive a 5% increase in Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for 2006.

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.

Debate (on motion by Senator Patterson) adjourned.