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
Maintaining high standards for Australia's educational institutions is a key priority for the government to protect our international reputation for quality in higher education. In order to do this, we must ensure that our regulatory agencies are adequately resourced to perform their governance and supervisory functions. I support the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021 and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021. These bills give effect to the 2018-19 budget measures to implement increased cost recovery for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
The government has delayed the introduction of increased cost-recovery for TEQSA on several occasions due to external factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, cost-recovery levels are relatively low, currently representing around 15 per cent of total costs. Clearly this is not a sustainable financial model. Currently the burden of funding the vast majority of the regulatory activities is borne by the taxpayer. Increased cost-recovery for TEQSA will involve increasing the agency's application based fees to recover the true cost of these activities. The increase to application based fees will be enabled by a new fees determination to be issued by the agency and introducing a new annual charge on higher education providers to recover the costs of TEQSA's risk-monitoring and regulatory oversight activities, including compliance monitoring and investigations, complaint management and stakeholder engagement.
The new annual charge is the subject of these bills. Consistent with the Australian government's Cost Recovery Guidelines, stakeholder feedback will be sought on a draft cost-recovery implementation statement. While higher education providers are likely to oppose this new annual charge, it will be phased in over three years to moderate the immediate financial impact. From 1 January 2022 the charge will be set to recover 20 per cent of the total costs of these activities. From 1 January 2023 the charge will be increased to recover 50 per cent of the total costs. Finally, from 1 January 2024 and ongoing, the charge will be set to recover the full costs of these regulatory activities. The amount of the annual charge will be prescribed by regulations setting out the formula for the charge, to be made by the Governor-General through the Executive Council. The amendments will require a higher education provider to pay the annual charge as and when it falls due, including any penalties for late payment. Failure by a higher education provider to pay the charge will constitute a breach of its conditions of registration.
The 2018-19 budget included a measure providing additional resources and revised cost-recovery arrangements for TEQSA. It provided additional resources of $24.3 million over four years to strengthen TEQSA's regulatory oversight of the higher education sector, meet a significant increase in applications for registration from prospective providers and protect Australia's reputation for high-quality higher education. It also included a shift to increased cost-recovery for regulatory activities. The fees for application based activities are determined by legislative instrument made by the agency under section 158 of the TEQSA Act. Those fees will increase from 1 January, to reflect the Australian government's decision to implement increased cost-recovery for regulatory activities.
The increased resources for the agency's other regulatory functions will be cost-recovered through the new charge developed in line with the Australian Government Charging Framework and imposed by the charges bill. The new charge will be set at a level sufficient to recover the cost of regulatory activities that are not the subject of its application based fees. The estimated total cost of these activities is around $5.7 million annually. The actual amount of the charge for each provider will be determined each year, based on the anticipated costs of TEQSA's regulatory activity for that year. The charge will be imposed on all providers on the agency's national register at the start of that year. The amount of the charge payable by each registered provider will be determined in accordance with a formula set out in the regulations made under proposed section 9 of the charges bill.
The bill also authorises regulations to be made that prescribe the amount or the method for working out the amount of the registered higher education provider charge and, in doing so, may provide for the indexation of the charge and exempt a registered higher education provider, including a class of registered higher education provider, from paying the charge.
Edith Cowan University, based in my electorate, has built up an international reputation for delivering quality in tertiary education and, in particular, excellence in research and development. The university has been allocated $245 million in federal funding as part of the recent budget to establish a new campus specialising in creative industries, business and technology courses. The satellite campus, which will be based at Perth's central business district and house the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, is scheduled to open in 2025 at a total cost of $695 million, with the university contributing $300 million and the WA state government providing land worth $150 million.
Public awareness of the significance of this funding commitment to the higher education sector in Perth is only beginning to be realised, with many residents still relatively unaware of the scale of the tertiary education project. For residents in my electorate, it means a wider range of courses and subjects to choose from and access to a broader selection of learning facilities and educational resources to equip them for future careers in the workforce. This investment by the federal government transcends electoral boundaries. It does not matter where the students live, they will have access to world-class educational facilities, literally on their doorstep, within the Perth metropolitan area.
The Perth campus will complement the courses offered at ECU's main Joondalup campus, based in the Moore electorate, and is expected to accommodate more than 8,000 students and 1,200 staff. The new campus should not be viewed as competing with the Joondalup campus; to the contrary, having a campus based in Western Australia's capital city will function as a gateway to channel international and interstate academics, students and researchers to ECU, putting it on the map. The modern state-of-the-art facilities will boost the reputation of the university, which already ranks among the world's top 100 universities under 50 years old, enhancing the status of the alumni and prestige of its degrees.
I acknowledge the futuristic vision of Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman, who has led the ECU team to institute what is a transformational education asset for the benefit of future generations. Professor Chapman first briefed me on his visionary plans to establish a capital city campus more than three years ago—a massive undertaking for both government and the university. The contribution of the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, the Hon. Alan Tudge MP, must be recognised. Minister Tudge visited the electorate on two occasions to discuss the federal government's City Deals program more broadly. We met with the City of Joondalup mayor, Albert Jacob, to discuss our regional infrastructure needs for a growing population. I also thank former Senator Mathias Cormann, who was instrumental in turning this ambitious project proposal to expand our local university into a reality.
During the construction phase, the project is expected to deliver $1.5 billion of economic activity and create more than 3,100 local jobs, adding to the government's economic stimulus program. The campus site is located at the central Perth City Link, adjoining Perth railway station. Interestingly, the northern suburbs railway passes adjacent to ECU's Joondalup campus, effectively directly connecting both campuses with public transport. It is envisaged that the creative and performing arts talent being nurtured at the city campus will add to the entertainment offering for visitors to the city of Perth, particularly during the evenings, supporting the local hospitality industry and adding vibrancy. If the city of Perth succeeds then all of us as Western Australians collectively share in that success as our capital city prospers. This $245 million investment by the Morrison government will expand our local university, which is good for our capital city and a positive for Western Australia, as it expands the higher education opportunities for the younger generation across Perth and the metropolitan area seeking to enter the workforce.
I am pleased that the federal budget included a $1.2 billion investment promoting Australia's digital future, providing the framework to ensure that we develop a world-class digital economy by 2030. Last week I attended the opening of Sapien Cyber, based on the ground floor of the new science building at the Joondalup Campus at Edith Cowan University. The facility was opened by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, a former member of this House. I also acknowledge the presence of the chairman, the Honourable Stephen Smith, a former Defence minister and member of this House. May I also acknowledge the exemplary contributions of ECU Vice-Chancellor, Steven Chapman CBE; Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Murray; and the Chief Operating Officer of Sapien Cyber, Rochelle Fleming, in establishing the state-of-the-art facility, which is a collaboration of academic and industry experienced practitioners building upon Edith Cowan University's 20 years of world-leading research in cybersecurity in the form of a new commercial entity model. It will enable local businesses to effectively prepare, defend and respond against cyberincursions and protect against losses to business continuity, safeguarding against reputational and financial loss.
The Joondalup Learning Precinct will develop into a centre of excellence for innovation, technology and research and development. Our educational institutions, such as Edith Cowan University, will continue to collaborate with industry to promote the commercialisation of intellectual property. Our city has the potential to evolve into a digital hub supporting software development, cybersecurity and advanced information technology. We have the highly educated and skilled workforce necessary to attract advanced industries into the heart of Joondalup. The information technology sector in Joondalup has been supported by the federal budget as part of our Digital Economy Strategy. I look forward to supporting the work of Sapien Cyber in the digital sphere, safeguarding our IT infrastructure which the economy of the future will be built upon.
In conclusion, these bills give effect to the 2018-19 budget measures to implement increased cost recovery for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. This will ensure adequate resourcing of the agency, strengthening the regulatory oversight of the higher education sector in light of the projected significant increase in applications for registration from prospective providers, protecting Australia's reputation for high quality, tertiary education. I commend the bills to the House.