Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I mean it; I'm puncturing the stereotype. Well, if the minister actually cared about them, he wouldn't be whacking them with higher charges at this time. Their international student numbers have plummeted. They are not all dodgy. The government did little to nothing to help them. We have already seen many of them go out of business. Many of them were not actually eligible for JobKeeper because they weren't going to suffer the cash flow hit in the short-term; they were facing a fiscal cliff now. Many of these businesses have been around for decades. At the very time when they are fighting for their survival, the government comes along and goes, 'Here is a good idea; we'll whack them with higher fees and charges and push them off the cliff.' If you go and talk to these businesses, that's what they say. They already have many legitimate criticisms of TEQSA's performance and behaviour as a regulator and about the one-size-fits-all approach that regulates all the animals in the sector as if they were an elephant. Well, the universities are the elephants in the sector and there are a lot of other types of providers—small, medium and large ones—but they get university-level regulation basically foisted on them. There is a sector bias within TEQSA, which is a different conversation. If you listen to previous speakers and listen to the government's rhetoric, it is 'We are on about lower taxes, lower charges, less burden on business.' It is peak irony. I mean, if it wasn't actually serious, you could say that this was just trolling the sector. At the very time higher education providers—universities and private ones—need more support from the government, at the very time that their cash flows are being hit, the government comes along and proposes with this bill to whack them with more fees and charges. We heard a government speaker say, 'Well, currently they only pay 15 per cent of the cost-recovery for the regulator, so we're going to jack that up to 100 per cent,' at the very worst time.
The final thing I'll say, just on the international education sector, which TEQSA has a huge role in regulating, is that it's more than just dollars. Students are human. They're usually young people. There have often been huge sacrifices from them and their families to come and study in our country in some of their formative years. We should welcome that. We should show care and consideration for these young people who have chosen to spend this time in our country—in our cities, towns and regions. Instead, we had the Prime Minister showing an appalling lack of empathy, getting up last year and saying, 'If you don't like it, go home.' That ricocheted through the sector.
Mr Tudge interjecting—