Thursday, 17 February 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (2022 Measures No. 1) Bill 2022; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Education Legislation Amendment (2022 Measures No. 1) Bill 2022 provides assistance to the higher education sector through the COVID-19 pandemic, supports the national priority of building a highly skilled workforce through access to education, and builds on the government's commitment to support access to health services in rural, remote and very remote Australia.
Schedule 3 of the bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to extend the FEE-HELP loan fee exemption for a further 12 months. This exemption originally commenced on 1 April 2020 as a COVID-19 financial relief measure, and will now continue through to 31 December 2022. This will assist approximately 30,000 full-fee paying undergraduate students accessing FEE-HELP to study in 2022, as well as supporting the mostly private higher education providers at which these students are enrolled.
Schedule 4 of the bill allows students to access FEE-HELP loans to study microcredential courses delivered as part of the Australian government's microcredentials pilot. The larger microcredential pilot program encourages universities to develop and deliver new microcredential programs, supporting the national priority to build a highly skilled workforce through more flexible and industry focused models of higher education.
Schedule 5 of the bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003to encourage employment and increase retention of doctors and nurse practitioners in rural, remote and very remote regions of Australia. The new measures will reduce outstanding HELP debts for eligible doctors and nurse practitioners who work in these locations for a required amount of time, and will also allow for the waiver of the indexation of their HELP debts.
The government is committed to improving services in regional and remote Australia. These measures incentivise doctors and nurses to relocate to rural, remote and very remote Australia, improving health services in those areas by ensuring those areas are able to attract and retain health practitioners.
Measures in schedules 3, 4, and 5 of the bill implement or support policies included in the government's 2021-22 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook budget announcement.
Schedules 1 and 2 of the bill make minor changes to improve the operation of the Higher Education Support Act 2003byaligning the citizenship and residency requirements for New Zealand citizens accessing HELP loans with other eligible non-Australian citizens, and clarifying student and provider obligations relating to the Unique Student Identifier.
Other measures in the bill make minor and technical amendments to improve the operation of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011.
These amendments support the government's commitment to supporting higher education and skilling Australia's workforce, and to improving health services in rural, remote and regional Australia.
I commend this bill to the House.