Bills Digest 79 1995-96 Education and Training Legislation Amendment Bill 1996


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 17 May 1996 1996

CONTENTS

Passage History

Date introduced:9 May 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Employment, Education and Training
Commencement: 1 July 1996.

Purpose

The major effect of the Bill is to abolish the Training Guarantee Scheme. The Bill also provides an additional $20.706 million in capital grants for non-government schools in 1996-97.

Background

The Training Guarantee Levy (TGL) was introduced in order to raise the training-of-staff efforts of Australian enterprises, in both the private sector and the public sector.

Some sectors in the Australian economy had become concerned that the skills base had been eroding, leaving Australia firms increasing less able to compete, both in international markets and domestically. Surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had shown that many firms did not undertake any staff training at all, and many more provided only minimal training (although the average amounts overall were above the designated proportions as outlined below). In the absence of any substantive commitments by employers to increase their levels of training, and with apparently widespread concern that trained staff were being 'poached' by firms not prepared to invest in training their own existing staff, the Commonwealth government felt obliged to change the 'culture' of industry training, especially to encourage employers to regard training as an investment rather than a cost. It introduced what became known as the National Training Reform Agenda, of which the TGL was a component.

Operation

The TGL scheme operated under the Training Guarantee Act 1990 and the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990, with effect from 1 July 1990.

In order to meet the requirements of the legislation employers were obliged to spend an amount equivalent to a proportion of their annual total payroll (if above the threshold) on eligible staff training each year. The designated proportions were:

1990-91 1.0 %, if above $200 000.00

1991-92 1.0 %, if above $214 000.00

1992-93 1.5 %, if above $222 000.00

1993-94 1.5 %, if above $226 000.00.

However, as part of the Working Nation strategy, the former government decided to suspend the TGL for 1994-95 and 1995-96, so the proportion for those years was not officially struck. Any shortfall for 1993-94 could be made up by providing eligible training during the two years of suspension.

Eligible training included in-house courses such as on-the-job training, office skills and computer training courses, external programs such as off-the-job apprenticeship training and conferences and seminars directly related to the employer's business activities, and contributions to training institutions such as TAFE colleges.

In order to assist enterprises in arranging their training programs so that they were suitably structured to meet their own needs and the requirements of the legislation, the scheme provided for Registered Industry Training Agents (RITAs) from 1 January 1991. RITAs were supervised by the National Training Board and were also empowered to issue Training Advisory Certificates to employers who were in doubt about the eligibility of their training.

Firms which did not meet the TGL requirement were obliged to pay the shortfall, between the amount determined as above and their actual expenditure on eligible training, to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Self-assessment (subject to audit) applied and employers needed to submit returns to the ATO only if they were reporting a shortfall. The monies collected by the ATO were to be distributed to State and Territory training authorities, to be used for training activities and enhancement, after ATO administrative expenses had been deducted. It was reliably expected that the ATO would collect somewhere in the range of $10-50 million in the initial years of the TGL, although some estimates went as high as $800 million. Monies actually collected (payable by 30 September following the end of each financial year) were much lower than any original estimate, as follows:

1990-91 $3.2 m.

1991-92 $1.5 m.

1992-93 $2.3 m.

The monies recovered by the ATO barely covered, or did not cover, the costs of administering the scheme. Of course, there were also significant compliance costs borne by employers in keeping detailed records, unless they had achieved 'outstanding trainer' status (having spent 5% or more of their payrolls on training), in which case they were exempt from the requirement to maintain records for the following three years. (Very few firms ever achieved this status.)

Outcomes

Surveys conducted after the TGL had been implemented showed that the training effort undertaken by enterprises which became subject to the TGL increased substantially throughout the country.

There was some debate during the currency of the scheme that firms were looking for ways to spend money just to avoid paying the TGL, and that much of this expenditure was wasted on 'artificial' or 'fake' training programs. It appears that many firms did undertake training programs simply or mainly to meet legislative requirements initially. It is more likely that some external providers conducted courses, etc. which barely met the eligibility criteria, or did not meet them at all, for unsuspecting firms and employees.

There is so far no reliable evidence gathered since the TGL was suspended to indicate whether the training effort of enterprises has changed significantly.

Main Provisions

Schedule 1 Amendments

The Training Guarantee Act 1990 is repealed by item 1 and the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 by item 2.

Item 3 provides that where an employer is liable to pay the training guarantee levy for the year commencing 1 July 1993 under paragraphs 15D(3)(f), (4)(b) or (6)(b) of the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990, section 42A will continue to apply.

Comment: Section 15D was inserted in the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 by the Training Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Act 1994 and deals with how a training guarantee shortfall (the difference between the minimum training requirement and the net eligible training expenditure of an employer) which is postponed is set off against excesses (net eligible training expenditure minus the minimum training requirement) in the following years. Section 42A requires employers who postpone a training guarantee shortfall lodge a further statement for the year following the shortfall.

Item 4 provides for the continued application of Division 3 of Part 6 of the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 in relation to any amount of training guarantee charge that remains or becomes payable by an employer on or after 30 June 1996.

Comment: Part 6 of the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 deals with training guarantee statements and assessments. Division 3 deals with assessment arrangements for training guarantee charge.

Item 5 provides for the continued application of Parts 8 and 9 of the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 in relation to any amount of the training guarantee levy that remains or becomes payable by an employer on or after 30 June 1996.

Comment: Parts 8 and 9 of the Training Guarantee (Administration) Act 1990 deal with the collection and recovery of the training guarantee levy and penalties.

Schedule 2 Amendments

The amendment to section 22A(3) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 proposed by item 1 of Schedule 2 will enable the Minister to make determinations approving grants to open learning organisations for the years 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Comment: As noted in the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the amendment corrects a drafting oversight in the Higher Education Funding Amendment Act (No. 2) 1995 which would have resulted in the Minister being unable to make determinations approving grants to open learning organisations for the years 1996, 1997 and 1998.
The Open Learning Initiative was announced in the 1992-93 Budget and provides access to higher education for those otherwise excluded from on-campus study by, for example, work or family responsibilities.

The effect of item 2, which amends Schedule 3 (Column 2) of the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 1992, is to provide an additional $20.706 million in capital grants for non-government schools in 1996-97.

Comment: The majority of Commonwealth funding for schools is provided on a calender year basis under the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 1992. Funds are provided for both recurrent expenditure and capital projects, as well as for a range of specific purpose payments. The Schedules to the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 1992 set final and initial grant levels. Grant levels incorporate cost supplementation for price increases.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland Ph. 06 277 2438
Geoff Winter Ph. 06 277 2437
17 May 1996
Bills Digest Service
Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9032
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 17 May 1996

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