House of Representatives

Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2004

Second Reading Speech

Dr Nelson (Bradfield - Minister for Education, Science and Training)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce the Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2004.

The bill makes two important funding adjustments. Firstly, it will amend the maximum funding amounts under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme for 2005 and 2006 to provide funding for places for Commonwealth supported students in the area of radiation oncology at the University of Newcastle and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. This funding was previously made available by the Department of Health and Ageing and will now be provided by my portfolio.

The bill also updates the annual appropriation under the Australian Research Council Act 2001, to reflect revised forward estimates.

As part of the implementation and consultation process for the new higher education reforms this bill also provides an opportunity to make some technical enhancements to the primary legislation and respond appropriately to issues that have been raised by the higher education sector.

As part of the Australian government's ongoing consultation with the higher education sector, this bill will allow higher education providers to continue to operate their summer schools as they do now. This is an important measure which allows students to fast-track their course or make up for a failed unit of study.

This bill also will add Melbourne University Private to the list of table B providers under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. This will allow Melbourne University Private to access Commonwealth funding for research and FEE-HELP assistance.

This funding includes the Research Training Scheme, the Institutional Grants Scheme and grants from the Australian Research Council.

The bill also makes amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to enhance the implementation of some of the higher education reforms. A number of these amendments are of particular benefit to students.

For example, the bill will extend access to assistance under the OS-HELP-the overseas help-scheme. OS-HELP is an important new program that will offer students loans of up to $5,000 per six month study period to finance overseas study. The bill will extend eligibility for this program to include study undertaken by students at an overseas campus of an Australian higher education provider. This will assist students to undertake overseas study while also maintaining the continuity of their studies at their chosen institution.

The bill will also allow students more time to submit their requests for Commonwealth assistance by allowing requests to be received up until the census date.

Full details of the measures in the bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum circulated to honourable members.

I commend the bill to the House and present a signed copy of the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Swan) adjourned.