Education Legislation Amendment (Startup Year and Other Measures) Bill 2023 – Second Reading

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (11:23): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Education Legislation Amendment (Startup Year and Other Measures) Bill 2023 amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to implement the government’s election commitment to establish a ‘Startup Year’ program in our universities.

What happens in our universities can change the world.

They are ideas factories.

They are playing an ever bigger role in nurturing our startup ideas from concept to commercial application through higher education based accelerator programs.

Startups play an important role in job creation and in commercialising ideas.

In 2020, over 3,000 new jobs could be attributed to Australia’s eight most successful startups.

The Technology Council of Australia estimates that new tech startups can contribute 30,000 new jobs and $7 billion in value by 2030.

But creating a successful startup requires know-how.

And we need to support the development of the skills needed to drive those businesses and technologies of the future.

That’s what this bill does.

It will extend up to 2,000 income contingent loans each year to eligible students participating in higher education based accelerator programs.

These will be programs which build skills in entrepreneurship and connect students with the support, mentorship and facilities they need to develop their startup ideas.

The loans will be available to final year undergraduate students, current postgraduate students and recent graduates as a new loan type under our existing Higher Education Loan Program.

The amount of assistance will be tied to the maximum student contribution amount for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, which is set at $11,800 under funding cluster 4 of the Higher Education Support Act.

The bill also provides for guidelines, which will contain further detail on the operation of the loan, including the process of allocating loans and registering eligible accelerator courses under the program.

Places will be prioritised for courses which demonstrate greater engagement with, and participation of, under-represented groups.

Among them:

  • female entrepreneurs;
  • Indigenous Australians;
  • people with disability; and
  • community-based startups which are working on regional and rural issues.

Consistent with other HELP loans, startup year loans will be paid back through the tax system once an individual’s income rises above the compulsory repayment threshold. This means that people pay what they can afford, and they don’t pay more if they don’t earn more.

This removes a significant roadblock to participation in accelerator programs, and will encourage a broader, more diverse range of programs to be available to a larger cohort of participants.

Eligible students will be able to receive a maximum of two startup year loans over their lifetime, and students who undertake an accelerator course and who access a startup year loan will be able to access a range of student payments, as long as they meet the other eligibility criteria.

These measures will help our bright young innovators to generate the game-changing ideas and jobs of the future.

The program will start with a pilot program commencing in July 2023, with a full rollout in July 2024.

The bill also amends the Higher Education Support Act to list Avondale University as a table B provider.

Listing Avondale as a table B provider recognises the university’s recent registration as an ‘Australian university’ by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, TEQSA, and will give Avondale greater access to grants under the Higher Education Support Act, such as research block grants.

The bill will also amend the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to apply current indexation rates to funding for the 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25 financial years and insert a new funding cap for the 2025-26 financial year, resulting in an additional appropriation to the ARC of just over $1 billion.

It will ensure that the Australian Research Council can continue to support Australia’s research sector by funding the highest quality of fundamental and applied research to deliver real cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits for all Australians.

The measures in this bill further the government’s commitment to supporting our higher education sector, and I commend the bill to the House.