Thursday, 18 October 2018
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
The report read as follows—
SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE
REPORT NO. 12 OF 2018
1. The committee met in private session on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at 7.40 pm.
2. The committee recommends that—
(a) contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 be referred immediately to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee but was unable to reach agreement on a reporting date (see appendix 1 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(b) the provisions of the Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2018 and the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2018 be referred immediately to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 23 November 2018 (see appendix 2 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(c) contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Every State and Territory Gets Their Fair Share of GST) Bill 2018 be referred immediately to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 8 November 2018 (see appendix 3 for a statement of reasons for referral); and
(d) the provisions of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia and Other Measures) Bill 2018 be referred immediately to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 23 November 2018 (see appendix 4 for a statement of reasons for referral).
3. The committee recommends that the following bills not be referred to committees:
Excise Tariff Amendment (Collecting Tobacco Duties at Manufacture) Bill 2018
4. The committee deferred consideration of the following bills to its next meeting:
Customs Tariff Amendment (Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2018
That the report be adopted.
The opposition has asked that several of these bills be referred to a committee for inquiry. I want to outline to the Senate some of the reasons behind these referrals.
The first bills that the Labor Party has asked to be referred to the committee for inquiry are the Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2018 and the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2018. Since the Liberals have come to office they've only had one plan for higher education: cuts and making students pay more, sooner. While Labor is cautiously supportive of this legislation, we want to refer it to an inquiry to make sure the policy settings are right and fair for universities as well as for students. This bill would charge higher education providers, including Australia's 39 public universities, to access Australia's world-class student loan scheme—HELP, the Higher Education Loan Program. This was never the intention of the original income-contingent loan scheme, HECS, and appears to be part of the government's attempts to find savings in the higher education portfolio. The related bill, the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2018, introduces a small charge to higher education providers who apply to access the FEE HELP scheme for their students.
While the changes in both bills look relatively benign, Labor have some concerns that we want the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee to examine. Importantly, we don't want new charges to become excessive; nor do we want to see charges flow on to students. Australian students already pay the sixth-highest university fees in the OECD, and in the last year the government introduced more punitive changes to the repayment threshold of HELP, forcing students to pay back loans when they're earning $45,000—only $9,000 more than the minimum wage. Because of the Liberals' cuts, universities are under huge pressure. The 2017 MYEFO decision to re-cap undergraduate places is going to hit universities particularly hard in 2019, and we'll see thousands of Australians miss out on a university place. As many as 235,000 could miss out by 2031, according to the Mitchell Institute. I seek to move the amendment, as circulated in the chamber, in the name of Senator Collins.
I move an amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Collins, as circulated in my name in the chamber, which relates to the referral of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for report by 7 November 2018. To be clear, we are happy for this to be done on the papers. We know it's a tight turnaround. The next chance to consider the bill is the week beginning 12 November, so it won't delay the passage of the bill—and, if the committee is so minded, we're prepared for it to be done on the pages.
It's not on the education bill. My speech did talk about the education bill, but the amendment was about the committee reporting date for the Treasury laws bill. At the request of Senator Collins, I move:
At the end of the motion, add:
"but, in respect of the provisions of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia and Other Measures) Bill 2018, the Economics Legislation Committee report by 3 December 2018".
There was some confusion about the amendment, based on your speech. Thank you. Senator Siewert has moved an amendment to Senator Collins' amendment. I'm going to put the question on Senator Siewert's amendment to Senator Collins' amendment first.
by leave—I would like to assist the Senate. There is clearly a level of confusion on the basis that some amendments haven't been circulated, and some amendments to amendments are not entirely clear. To assist the Senate, could we get back to the Selection of Bills Committee report at the end of motions?