The Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018 (the bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives on 14 February 2018 by the Hon Ms Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills.
On 15 February, the Senate referred an inquiry into the provisions of the bill to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 16 March 2018.
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were made available on the committee's website. The committee also contacted a number of organisations who had made submissions to the committee's recent inquiry into the provisions of the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017 (the 2017 bill), inviting these organisations to submit to the committee's current inquiry into the bill.
The committee received 35 submissions as detailed in Appendix 1.
The committee held a public hearing on 5 March 2018 in Melbourne, Victoria. The witness list for this hearing can be found at Appendix 2.
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 outlines the background to the bill and the measures contained in it.
Chapter 3 considers in more detail the following measures in the bill raised by submitters and witnesses:
amendments to the student repayment threshold and rates of repayment of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts; and
the new lifetime loan limits.
Compatibility with human rights
The bill's statement of compatibility with human rights states that the bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR) had not considered the bill before the committee was due to report.
However, the PJCHR did consider the 2017 bill in its Fifth and Seventh reports of 2017 and raised issues with respect to the compatibility of a number of measures in that bill with the rights to education, and equality and non‑discrimination.
Scrutiny of Bills Committee
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills (Scrutiny of Bills Committee) had not considered the bill before the committee was due to report. However, the Scrutiny of Bills committee made no comment with respect to the 2017 bill.
Financial Impact Statement
The Explanatory Memorandum sets out the financial impact of each schedule of the bill:
the changes to Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment thresholds and indexation in Schedule 1 of the bill will deliver savings of $345.8 million in fiscal balance terms and $245.3 million in underlying cash balance terms over 2017-18 to 2020-21;
the changes to Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) repayment thresholds in Schedule 1 of the bill and the order of repayment of debts in Schedule 2 of the bill will deliver savings of $32.3 million in underlying cash balance terms over 2017-18 to 2020-21; and
the combined HELP loan limit measures in Schedule 3 of the bill will deliver a cost of $22.9 million in fiscal balance terms from 2017-18 to 2020-21, and 'come at a cost of around $10.3 million over the forward estimates'.
The committee thanks those individuals and organisations who contributed to this inquiry by preparing written submissions and giving evidence at the public hearing.
References in this report to the Hansard for the public hearing are to the Proof Hansard. Please note that page numbers may vary between the proof and official transcripts.