Education Legislation Amendment (2022 Measures No. 1) Bill 2022 – Second Reading

Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Education) (09:38):

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I’m pleased to introduce the Education Legislation Amendment (2022 Measures No. 1) Bill 2022.

This bill amends the Higher Education Support Act2003 to improve equality of access to higher education and support this government’s commitment to building a highly skilled workforce.

The bill delivers on our election commitment to remove the 10 per cent HESS-HELP discount for students who pay upfront their student contribution amounts for Commonwealth supported places.

This was a measure that we took to the election on the principle that all students should pay the same amount for the same course, regardless of their ability to pay up front.

The measure will take effect on 1 January 2023 and is projected to save $144 million over the forward estimates.

Those savings will help to fund the extra 20,000 new university places that I announced earlier this week.

Those 20,000 extra places have been allocated to support students who are currently under-represented in our universities.

Students from poorer families.

Students from regional Australia.

Indigenous Australians.

Australians with a disability.

And students who are the first in their family to ever set foot in a university.

The bill will also extend the FEE-HELP loan fee exemption for a further 12 months.

This exemption originally commenced on 1 April 2020 as a COVID-19 financial relief measure, and will now continue through to 31 December 2022.

This will help around 30,000 full-fee-paying undergraduate students accessing FEE-HELP to study in 2022. It will also support the higher education providers where these students are enrolled.

This bill also extends FEE-HELP to eligible students who participate in the government’s microcredential pilot.

The microcredential pilot encourages universities to develop and deliver industry targeted, flexible short courses as part of building a highly skilled workforce.

The bill also makes other amendments to the Higher Education Support Act to clarify and improve its operation.

It clarifies arrangements around enabling courses.

Enabling courses help prepare students for higher education study like a bachelor’s degree.

The measures in this bill clarify that these enabling courses will not count toward a student’s lifetime limit of Commonwealth support.

The bill also improves consistency by aligning the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP citizenship and residency requirements for New Zealand citizens with the existing requirements for those students accessing a Commonwealth supported place.

It requires that these students be resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study to be eligible for HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP.

The bill also strengthens administration and accountability by requiring that students seeking Commonwealth funding provide their Unique Student Identifier to their institution and the Commonwealth.

It also makes other minor technical amendments to the Higher Education Support Act and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act to improve their operation.

The measures in this bill support the government’s commitment to equal access to higher education and building the skills of Australia’s workforce.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.