House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020


National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020; Second Reading

11:15 am

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to sum up the debate on the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2019. I'd like to thank all colleagues who have contributed to the debate on this bill, which will ensure that the national VET regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, ASQA, is positioned to safeguard and enhance the reputation and integrity of Australia's vocational education and training, or VET, sector. I'd also like to thank the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills for its consideration and scrutiny comments on the bill, contained in Scrutiny digest 1 of 2020.

Last year this government committed $18.1 million to support the reform of ASQA. These reforms will ensure that regulation of the VET sector is transparent and effective and is aligned with modern best-practice models of governance and engagement. This bill is the first tranche of changes to ASQA, which respond to the recommendations from the 2018 Braithwaite review of the regulator's primary legislation and the 2019 Joyce review of VET, to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose.

This bill supports ASQA's move towards transparency, ensuring it is a balanced regulator that builds quality and capacity in the VET sector. These measures ensure the regulator has the necessary powers to scrutinise registered training organisations, RTOs, and ensure that only those RTOs genuinely committed and adequately resourced to deliver quality training to students will be allowed to operate. Where ASQA must cancel an RTO's registration for noncompliance with the VET quality framework, the amendments provide ASQA with flexibility and discretion in determining when cancellation or refusal of registration takes effect so as to minimise the impact on students. In practice the amendments will allow providers in some circumstances to continue operating for a period while students complete their training or arrange to transfer to another provider.

It is critical for ASQA to follow standard regulatory procedures so RTOs are afforded the principles of natural justice and decisions are supported by sound evidence. There are existing natural justice requirements in the NVETR Act that ensure providers are notified of ASQA's intention to cancel and provide time for RTOs to respond to the notice. These remain unchanged by these amendments, and the RTOs will continue to have access to appeal processes.

Improved transparency of regulatory actions will occur with the public release of RTO audit reports once an appropriate format for these reports has been consulted on and agreed. This important measure will improve VET sector confidence in the ability of the regulator to make appropriate, consistent and proportionate regulatory decisions. Expanding information entered on the publicly available national register and enabling ASQA to share information electronically with those responsible for administering laws to the VET sector will assist students to make informed enrolment decisions and provide employers with better information about training quality. Further technical amendments in the bill support ASQA to be a more responsive and efficient regulator and facilitate improved engagement with the sector.

I understand the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, has written to the chair of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Senator Helen Polley, to thank the committee for its scrutiny comments, made in Scrutiny digest 1 of 2020. The minister has responded to the committee's request for advice in relation to several issues in the bill. Having considered the observations and comments made on the bill, no amendments were considered appropriate.

This bill is the first step in a suite of measures the government is bringing forward to enhance ASQA's regulatory approach and ensure Australia's ongoing capacity to deliver quality VET training to meet the needs of a growing, skilled economy. Once again, I thank all the members for their engagement, feedback and scrutiny of this bill. I commend the bill to the House.


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