Wednesday, 28 March 2007
Higher Education Legislation Amendment (2007 Measures No. 1) Bill 2007
In summing up, I thank all members who have taken the time out this morning—and indeed last night—to speak on the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (2007 Measures No. 1) Bill 2007, especially the member for Cowper and the member for Macquarie. The member for Macquarie spoke at length about UWS, and the wonderful work they were doing there through their medical school, and about a number of other universities that are within the new boundaries of his electorate. I say to those people involved in that area, in particular at that university, that the member works tirelessly for your community.
The bill before the House is a clear expression of the Australian government’s strong support for quality research and a world-class higher education sector. The bill will provide $41 million to assist our universities to implement the research quality framework. The research quality framework will ensure that taxpayers’ funds are being invested in research of the highest order which delivers real benefits to the higher education sector and the broader community. The bill also contains measures which will enhance the quality and diversity of Australia’s higher education system.
This bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to reflect the changes to the National Protocols for Higher Education Process. These changes are the outcome of extensive consultations involving state and territory governments and the higher education sector. The revised protocols will also make possible the emergence of specialist universities, aligning well with the government’s vision for a more diverse higher education sector. Greater diversity will benefit students, staff and employers by promoting greater choice and competition to the wider sector.
This bill makes a number of technical amendments which will clarify the existing Higher Education Loan Program and Commonwealth student support arrangements and will ensure that the legislation reflects original policy intent. The Higher Education Loan Program is recognised internationally as one of the fairest higher education systems in the world. Today, virtually every eligible person who wants to undertake university studies is able to do so in a government subsidised place. Since 1989, almost two million people have been able to access higher education opportunities through government funded income contingent loans. For every $1 a student contributes to their education, the Australian government contributes $3. A record number of students are studying at Australian universities. More than 213,000 Australians received an offer of a university place this year alone.
Offers to school leavers, which have grown in every state and territory, have increased by 5.6 per cent nationally. This year, 91.4 per cent of all school leavers who applied for a university place have received one. This shows that students are taking advantage of the choices now open to them, thanks to the Australian government’s investment in higher education, a dividend of a very strong economic management policy which the government has implemented.
In response to the member for Perth, I confirm that schedule 5 of the bill, regarding eligibility for Commonwealth assistance, affects only New Zealand citizens and certain permanent visa holders. Australian citizens are not affected.
I wish to foreshadow two government amendments to this bill, which I will be moving during the consideration in detail stage. These amendments have been circulated to members. They are minor amendments which will correct drafting errors in the bill as introduced in this House on 28 February 2007. The bill before the House reflects the government’s commitment of ensuring that our research and higher education sectors continue to play a key role in Australia’s ongoing prosperity. I urge all members to support this bill.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Stephen Smith’s amendment) stand part of the question.