Explanatory Memorandum(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash)
Statement of compatibility with human rights
Statement of compatibility with human rights
Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011
VET Student Payment Arrangements (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2020
The VET Student Payment Arrangements (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2020 (the Bill) is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
Overview of the Bill
The Bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) to implement measures to assist the Commonwealth to resolve outstanding matters that arose under the former VFH scheme, and introduces measures that will facilitate closure of the scheme. The Bill also amends the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (VSL Act) to improve administration of the VET Student Loans program.
Amendments to HESA relating to the VFH scheme
The VFH scheme, set out in Schedule 1A to HESA, was an income contingent loan scheme for VET students. The VFH scheme was replaced by the VET Student Loans program in 2017, but some students continued to access VFH under grand-fathering arrangements in 2017 and 2018. Despite the scheme being no longer operational, the Commonwealth continues to manage a number of outstanding matters relating to the scheme. There are also a number of bodies that remain approved as VET providers under Schedule 1A to HESA.
The Bill implements measures to:
- phase out the Commonwealth's obligation to pay amounts of VFH assistance to VET providers in respect of old student data, and protect students by preventing providers from pursuing students for the amounts the Commonwealth does not pay;
- enable the Commonwealth to set off various amounts owed by VET providers to the Commonwealth under the VFH scheme against amounts of FEE-HELP assistance or VET student loans payable to the provider under HESA or the VSL Act;
- revoke the approval of remaining VET providers, while providing for the continuing operation of HESA and relevant legislative instruments to enable the Commonwealth to deal with and resolve outstanding matters under the VFH scheme.
Amendments to the VSL Act relating to the VET Student Loans program
The VET Student Loans program is administered in accordance with the VSL Act. The Bill includes measures to improve the efficient administration of the VET Student Loans program by:
- specifying additional circumstances where the Secretary is not required to pay a VET student loan amount for a student for a course, to align with current provisions and circumstances that allow the Secretary to re-credit a student's HELP balance. Currently, for the Secretary to re-credit a student's HELP balance, the relevant amount must have been first paid by the Secretary to the provider. Once the amount is re-credited to the student's HELP balance, the Commonwealth is entitled to recover that amount from the provider. The proposed amendments provide that the Secretary is not required to pay the provider in the first instance, in the same range of circumstances that students' HELP balances can be re-credited. This will have the same outcome for providers and students while making it clear the Secretary is not required to pay an amount to a provider prior to seeking to recover that same amount as a debt;
- automatically revoking the approval of an approved course provider if it ceases to be a Registered Training Organisation.
Human rights implications
The Right to Education
The Bill engages the right to education which is set out in Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Article 13 recognises the important personal, societal, economic and intellectual benefits of education.
Article 13 provides that secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means.
The intent of the measures in the Bill is to further facilitate closure of the former VFH scheme and protect students in that process by:
- ensuring they do not incur VFH debts indefinitely in relation to training they undertook many years ago; and
- preventing VET providers from pursuing students where the Commonwealth does not pay VET providers on the basis of old student data.
The VFH scheme was replaced from 1 January 2017 by the VET Student Loans program. That program improves affordability of vocational education and training, maximises educational outcomes and prioritises student loans to accord with skills need and ensures overall fiscal sustainability for the Commonwealth to regulate the sector effectively. The measures in the Bill are intended to facilitate the efficient administration of the VET Student Loans program.
The Bill is compatible with the right to education.
The Bill is compatible with human rights because it imposes no limitations on human rights in the delivery of vocational education and training in Australia.
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business,
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash