Today I introduce the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Annual Registration Charge) Bill 2017 and its companion bill, the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Charges) Amendment (Annual Registration Charge) Bill 2017.
The government is committed to the vital role vocational education and training plays in ensuring Australia has the skilled workforce it needs to drive innovation and economic growth.
Australia's economic prosperity depends upon the quality of our graduates, the outcomes of the training they receive and whether they are skilled in the way employers need them to be skilled. The quality and reputation of our VET sector is therefore critical to the success of our country, our workers and our businesses.
It is essential that we give the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) the flexibility, resources and support it needs to provide high quality regulation of the sector through proper cost recovery arrangements.
ASQA has a wide range of legislated responsibilities under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (the NVETR Act) and the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act).
Those responsibilities include: registering providers, accrediting courses, undertaking compliance audits, collecting, analysing and disseminating information about VET providers, and taking regulatory action where appropriate.
Activities such as intelligence collection and data analysis, which inform targeted monitoring, are core elements of ASQA's risk-based regulatory approach. These activities benefit the quality of the whole sector rather than individual RTOs.
This bill amends the NVETR Act and the companion bill amends the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Charges) Act 2012 (the NVETR Charges Act). Combined, these amendments will ensure that ASQA can recover the costs of critical compliance monitoring and intelligence analysis work it undertakes to protect and enhance quality in VET.
These amendments will create the appropriate legal structure for the recovery of costs associated with ASQA's broader regulatory activities. The amendments replace the current annual registration fees collected by ASQA under the NVETR Act with an annual registration charge collected under the NVETR Charges Act.
I do want to be clear—there will be no additional financial costs or impacts on businesses or ASQA's revenue as a result of the amendments. The charge simply replicates the current fees calculated and applied by ASQA.
The amendments are consistent with annual charges under the ESOS Act and the VET Student Loans Act 2016 and a validation provision in the companion bill is included to make sure there is no confusion about the validity of previously collected fees. Similar to current arrangements, the amount or calculation of the charge will be determined by the minister through a legislative instrument and agreed by the Council of Australian Governments Industry and Skills Council.
Exposure drafts of the bills were released to state and territory officials who supported the amendments.
The bills include amendments to ensure providers are notified of amounts owing at the time of their registration, time frames for payment of the charge and refund arrangements where a provider's registration ends during the course of a financial year.
They also make clear that charges are recoverable as debts owed to the Commonwealth and that past cancellations for failure to pay will continue after the fees are replaced with a charge. Last year, around 4.5 million people participated in the VET system.
Investing in Australia's workforce by supporting high-quality VET is central to our country's success.
The bills support this commitment and maintain a revenue basis for ASQA to adopt a regulatory approach that enhances the quality and integrity of the Australian VET system. I commend the bill.