National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Charges) Bill 2012 - Second Reading Speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (10:19): I take this opportunity firstly to thank the members who spoke on the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Charges) Bill 2012. This government fully recognises the critical role the VET sector plays in building our nation and our society. The challenge is for the VET sector to be responsive to the need for economic growth and increase productivity through skills and the need for a more mobile workforce ready to adapt to changing economic needs across state boundaries.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority began operations on 1 July 2011 as the national regulator for the VET sector. The commencement of ASQA is a great achievement and represents one of the most significant reforms of the VET sector in the past two decades. It has come about through the cooperative effort of state and territory governments and the Australian government as well as real commitment from the VET sector for this reform.

This bill is the final piece of establishing legislation for ASQA and will enable ASQA to implement part of the cost-recovery model recommended by the Council of Australian Governments in December 2009. The cost-recovery arrangements were subject to extensive consultation in 2011, and the proposed fee and charge structure, including the consultation process, is explained in a cost-recovery impact statement which has been publicly available since the commencement of ASQA.

Under the risk assessment process used by ASQA, high-risk registered training organisations assessed as having a greater risk of noncompliance will be monitored more closely. This bill enables ASQA to recover reasonable costs and expenses associated with additional monitoring activities of these organisations, as well as the costs of investigating substantiated complaints. It is important that ASQA is adequately resourced and appropriate that the costs of ensuring a quality VET system are borne by the organisations that benefit from the system.

I note that the Senate Economics Legislation Committee tabled its report on the bill on 10 May 2012 and, having examined the provisions of the bill and the submissions made to the inquiry, recommends that the bill should be passed in its current form. The committee's report raised a couple of issues around the need to ensure transparency and clarity of charges and that regional and rural training providers are not disadvantaged by the charges.

The cost-recovery impact statement clearly articulated the design of the charges and makes it clear that regional and rural providers will not be disadvantaged when compared to their metropolitan counterparts. This bill reflects the government's continued commitment to working with governments and stakeholders to continually improve the quality and consistency of training across the VET sector. A strong, nationally consistent regulatory framework is a key step in achieving this, and I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Bill read a second time.