Monday, 10 February 2020
Trade Support Loans Amendment (Improving Administration) Bill 2019; Second Reading
I rise in the House today to speak in support of the Trade Support Loans Amendment (Improving Administration) Bill 2019. The coalition government is committed to ensuring Australians have the right skills for the workforce of today and tomorrow. The changes in this bill play an important role in reducing the administrative burden on Australian apprentices and the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network providers.
In my electorate of Bonner there are more than 17,000 small and medium businesses, many who support and rely on the work of young apprentices who are starting their careers. Thanks to the coalition government's commitment to job creation we are helping many of these small businesses, with $1.1 billion to fund employer incentives and support apprentices—a very worthwhile program. We want to see Australia's apprentices successfully complete their apprenticeships and go on and build fulfilling and exciting careers. Starting an apprenticeship can be tough. The financial cost of buying tools, equipment and vehicles, on top of living costs, can put a financial strain on young people and can seem like a lot to take on.
In July 2014 the Australian government introduced trade support loans to help ease the financial burden on young apprentices starting out and help them succeed. The loans provide up to $21,078 over four years to eligible apprentices to assist them with the cost of living and learning while undertaking their training. During the 2018-19 financial year, the Trade Support Loans program provided financial support to 55,998 Australian apprentices. These loans are normally repaid through the Australian taxation system once a former apprentice's income reaches the minimum repayment income threshold.
Payments are managed by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, AASN, providers. While in receipt of a trade support loan, an apprentice must notify their provider of any change in their circumstances that may impact on their eligibility. This could include an apprentice changing employers or suspending their apprenticeship. Where a payment is made and the apprentice has not notified their provider of the change, the apprentice may incur an overpayment debt to the Commonwealth, which needs to be repaid immediately. This trade support loan amendment bill will allow offsetting arrangements to be implemented where the apprentice is eligible to receive trade support loan instalments in the future. Future instalments are reduced by the instalment amounts already received in error until the debt is fully remedied.
While in receipt of a trade support loan, Australian apprentices are also required to inform the secretary if their address or circumstances change. Currently, apprentices must notify of a change of address within 14 days. This bill allows notification to occur after 14 days. Currently, apprentices must notify a change of circumstances within seven days, but this bill allows notification to occur within 14 days. These changes will, importantly, reduce the administrative burden on Australian apprentices and Australian Apprenticeship Support Network providers.
Time and time again, our government has committed to reducing the red tape and making conditions easier for Australians to undergo skills training, apprenticeships or study. The coalition government wants to equip Australians with the skills that they need for good, secure jobs and to reduce the red tape burden. This bill supports both these goals and it has my full support. I commend this bill to the House.