Thursday, 12 November 2020
Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020, Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020; Second Reading
Labor supports the Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020 and the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020. In November last year, the shadow minister for education and training wrote to the minister, asking him to consider exactly these changes. Labor has voiced our concern that the exclusion of domestic upfront-fee-paying students from the tuition protection scheme would create a complex situation where different students have different rights and protections. It may have taken nearly 10 months, but we are pleased that the government has legislated to tie up these loose ends. We welcome the practical effect of the legislation to create simpler arrangements for students and processes for decision-making, student placement and loan recrediting. We commend these bills to the Senate.
I want to thank senators for their support for the Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020 and the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020. The bills enable Australia's unique and successful tuition protection arrangements to be extended to cover domestic students who pay their tuition fees for their studies upfront. This will ensure these students receive the same government-backed protections and assistance as students who accessed Commonwealth assistance loans to fund their studies—that is, support through either a replacement unit or course to continue their studies or a refund of their tuition fees for incomplete units of study where their provider has failed to deliver.
The Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020 will seek to impose the upfront payments tuition protection levy and prescribe the levy components and the manner in which they will be determined each year. This will enable leviable providers to contribute to a fund rather than maintain their own separate tuition protection arrangements for domestic upfront paying students. These arrangements can often be burdensome for providers to maintain. The new tuition protection arrangements for upfront paying students are consistent with the already proven successful tuition protection model for international students and domestic students who access a Commonwealth loan to support their studies.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the education sector. Now more than ever, these bills provide an additional measure of surety to domestic higher education students who are not relying on Commonwealth assistance loans. These students can be assured that they will be assisted through these government-backed tuition protection arrangements in the event that their provider closes or stops teaching a course from 2021. This surety will also encourage people to invest in their higher education and gain the necessary skills and qualifications for employment in their chosen career field, thereby contributing to the future growth of Australia's skilful workforce. I commend the bills to the Senate.
Question agreed to.
Bills read a second time.