Higher Education Support Amendment Bill (No 1) - Consideration in Detail

Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (09:38): The government will not be supporting these amendments.

The government's intent with the bill is to clarify indexation arrangements. The ambiguity arose as a result of amendments of the indexation provisions in the act that were made by the Higher Education Support Amendment (Indexation) Act 2010. The amendments proposed by the opposition, if passed, would substantially change arrangements for the student services and amenities fee. They would change section 19-37(5)(e) to say that a student services and amenities fee cannot be more than $250 for a calendar year, starting 1 January 2012. The government is not changing the amount of the student services and amenities fee; it is making clear that the amount of the fee is $263 in 2012. The student services and amenities fee in the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Act 2011 was a 2010 amount. It was always intended that this amount would be indexed on 1 January 2011 and in each subsequent year. This intention was clearly highlighted in the explanatory memorandum for the student services and amenities act. The explanatory memorandum provides that the fee will be indexed to $254 in 2011 and indexed annually thereafter. During the debate in the Senate the government explicitly indicated that, under the proposed arrangements, the fee would be $263 in 2012. Universities are already charging student services and amenities fees up to $263. The opposition's amendments would mean that universities would be breaching section 19-37. There are substantial penalties for breaching that section of the act. It is not reasonable to change these arrangements retrospectively. We do not support the amendments.

The SPEAKER: The question before the chair is that the amendments be agreed to.