Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021


Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:22 pm

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to speak on the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021 and the Treasury Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021. These bills represent a minor but nonetheless important change to the system which regulates education providers. They give effect to the government's decision to implement increased cost recovery for TEQSA, announced in the 2018-19 budget. Understandably, we've delayed the introduction of increased cost recovery on several occasions due to external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic. But, at the moment, our TEQSA cost recovery levels are very low at around 15 per cent of the total costs, which are borne ultimately by the taxpayer. The taxpayer bears the burden of funding the vast majority of these regulatory activities—those activities which enable providers to operate in the Australian marketplace, and they deliver value to students. Recovering a greater level of the true costs will involve increasing TEQSA's application based fees. This increase will be enabled by new fees determination to be issued by TEQSA. It will also mean introducing a new annual charge on higher education providers to recover the costs of risk monitoring and regulatory oversight activities. The new annual charge will be the subject of these bills.

With the passage of these bills the regulator will seek stakeholder feedback on draft cost-recovery implementation statement consistent with existing Commonwealth practices—very important. Any costs with these will be phased in over a period of three years to help mitigate, importantly, the impact to providers.

Firstly, with regards to the charges bill, this bill will enable a new annual charge to be collected from registered higher education providers to recover the costs of TEQSA's risk monitoring, compliance monitoring and investigations, compliant management, stakeholder engagement and other regulatory oversight activities. These costs are not currently covered and are borne by the taxpayer. The annual charge will be phased in over three years, commencing on 1 January 2022. Twenty per cent of the related costs will be recovered in 2022, 50 per cent in 2023, and 100 per cent by the time we get to 2024. The amount of the annual charge will be prescribed by the regulations setting out the formula for charge, to be made by the Governor-General through the Executive Council.

Now to the cost recovery bill. This bill will amend the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency Act 2021 to enable TEQSA to levy the annual charge created by the charges bill. 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.

As I said at the outset, in the grand scheme of things, the changes that are made in this bill are relatively minor, but they are reasonable changes to the regulatory framework around education. I'm proud to be a part of a government that is interested in making sure that we deal with the minor things just as we focus on dealing with major impacts. We have a strong record on education at all levels. Every Australian, I'm proud to say—and we all should be proud—has equality of access to education, whatever the level, whether their age or their ability, and our plan for education delivers for everybody, for every Australian.

Our guaranteed funding commitment invests $315 billion in schools over the next decade to 2029. This increases average funding per student by 60 per cent over the decade. We have replaced Labor's multiple secret funding deals with a single needs based national model of schools funding. Australian government funding for schools is now based on students' needs. This is very important. Our agreement is fair and, importantly, it provides certainty.

No matter where a student goes to school, they will get the funding and support that they need for the very best possible education. We are ensuring that our record funding commitment gets better results for Australian students, parents and teachers. We're backing the implementation of NAPLAN to ensure parents and teachers get transparency on student progress. We're improving teacher quality by testing trainee teachers to ensure that they are in the top 30 per cent for literacy and numeracy before they can teach.

Our government is also committed to a national centre of excellence and research for teaching. We have also secured the agreement of states and territories to work with us to improve results—and we have to see improved results. We have a lot of work to do in this regard. There is some serious work to do on the curriculum, and I've been quite vocal about that in recent months, but I'm confident that we will get there.

The Morrison government is also backing parents who choose the school that best meets the needs of their child, including Catholic and independent schools. We back choice as a government as far as parents considering where they'll send their children for their education. In total, an extra $4.8 billion of funding will be available to non-government schools over the next decade. Parents need to be able to decide on what is best for their own children, and we're empowering them to do that.

This extra funding is not at the expense of government schools. From 2017 to 2029, Australian government funding for government schools will increase by 72.1 per cent per student on average, and non-government schools will increase by 53 per cent per student on average. Secure, long-term funding is being provided for all students based on need. We've also committed to the National School Chaplaincy Program on a permanent basis. We hear from schools and school communities across the country just how important and vital this service is in providing that support to students. There will be a particular new focus on an antibullying program through that. This means that school chaplains can provide pastoral care, run programs such as breakfast clubs and coordinate volunteer activities for over 3,000 schools. School chaplains will also be trained to combat cyberbullying so that they can better identify and support students who may be victims. This is important work, and we certainly value the role that chaplains play. We know the positive impact that they have on kids, and we're backing them as they do that important work.

After school I went on to complete a trade in electronic servicing. I know how valuable that was for me. That skill of troubleshooting a problem is a skill that I apply even here in this job today. That skill of going back to the very root of an issue is something I've been able to carry right through my entire career. There is no doubt that all of us bring into this place experiences that we had and learned and gained from right at the very beginning of our career. I'm quite passionate about apprenticeships and about seeing them continue to be a great pathway for students as they embark on their careers. This is why I'm proud to be part of this government, which is committed to seeing 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships, with a 50 per cent wage subsidy for businesses who employ them. This is fantastic. This is in addition to the 180,000 existing apprenticeships and traineeships that are already being protected.

The new JobTrainer fund will create up to 320,000 free or low-cost training places for school leavers and jobseekers. We're supporting young Australians into work as well. The JobMaker hiring credit will encourage businesses to hire young Australians. This credit will be payable for up to 12 months and immediately available to employers who hire those aged 16 to 35 who are on Jobseeker. It will be paid at a rate of $200 a week for those under 30 and $100 per week for those aged between 30 and 35. New hires must work for at least 20 hours per week to be eligible. Treasury estimates that this will support 450,000 jobs for young people. Further, the Youth Jobs PaTH program, a great program, supports 15- to 24-year-old jobseekers who move from welfare to work, providing them with the necessary experience to be able to progress through their careers. More than 110,000 young people have participated in at least one element of the Youth Jobs PaTH program, with 68,000—importantly—taking up a job placement.

We're also backing those heading to university under the Job-ready Graduates Package of reforms to higher education. The government's university funding of $18 billion in 2020 will grow to $20 billion by 2024. It's a package that will create up to 30,000 new university places and 50,000 new short course places by 2021, and provide additional support for students in regional and remote Australia. Further, in 2021 an additional $1 billion has been allocated to support the vital research activities of Australia's universities. The record funding in education is something I'm very proud of as a coalition senator here in this place, seeing the budget and seeing what the government has committed in this area. A commitment to education is the only way that we're going to be able to provide the very best opportunities for not only individuals but also, importantly, the nation collectively. If we are going to compete on a global scale, we need to have the very best opportunities for education. That's what this government is committed to doing, and it's providing that.

An additional $1 billion has been allocated to support vital research activities in universities. We can be proud of the quality of the research that's occurring in our universities. I've spent time over the recess seeing some of the work that's being done in our universities in Western Australia, through the cooperative research centres, in battery technology and new forms of energy such as hydrogen. Fantastic opportunities exist. As Australians, we can be very proud of the groundbreaking research that is being undertaken in our universities across this cooperative setting where we've got industry working together with the research institutions. This cooperative model is ensuring that we're able to get that research in action. We're able to see progress through to action and investment on the ground. We've got opportunities to delve into new areas of development, to move into new possibilities for the energy space and for batteries and the new opportunities that will create.

I'm very proud to see record levels of funding in education, and our achievements here are very clear. We'll always need to do more, and we accept that. We always work collaboratively with the sector to work out how we can do more and how we can do better as a nation. We all take up that challenge. I know that the university sector and all sectors of education are rising to that challenge and working cooperatively across governments to ensure that we're providing the very best opportunity for people to get ahead, particularly young people. Every day we're listening and we're prepared to make the reforms that will deliver better outcomes. We're working very hard. We're listening every day to the feedback, and we're responding to that. We're prepared to make the reforms, the necessary reforms, that will deliver on better outcomes.

These bills that we're discussing here today, these bills that are before the Senate, are very important. They are part of our plan. They are minor in the changes that they're making, but they are nonetheless important. It's important that these stakeholders and the providers of education are the ones that are actually bearing the costs of the delivery of these regulations and ensuring that cost recovery is there and the charges are made and, importantly, those that have been sent a bill are required to pay it. This bill ensures we have the capacity to do that. That's why I commend these bills to the Senate. Thank you.


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