Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Debate resumed on motion of Mr MERLINO:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Mr HODGETT (Croydon) (13:08): It is a pleasure to rise to make a contribution as the lead speaker on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. The bill proposes various amendments to several acts, which I will outline, and the amendments are mainly technical in nature and seek to improve various parts of the education and training system in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. Given that the amendments are mainly technical in nature, I will spend some time just reading them into or putting them into my contribution so that sets the scene for what this bill is and the purpose and the main provisions of this bill are. Then I want to talk briefly about just a couple of areas that we raised but pleasingly were addressed and a number of questions that were raised and conclude with our position on the bill—that we are not opposing it—and the reasons there.
I thank some of the stakeholders for their contributions in terms of their feedback on the bill. But before I commence once again I want to put on record my thanks to the department and staff from the ministers’ offices who not only organised the bill briefing, which is par for the course when we deal with legislation in this place, but—there were a number of questions that were raised at the bill briefing—gave us thorough responses, not just minor responses, which helps me as shadow spokesperson for education because I can circulate those to the people on this side of the house that raised those issues or indeed some of the stakeholders that raised them, and it allows us to go back to them to clarify some of them.
So in particular I thank Paul Frayne, who is the senior adviser in the Minister for Education’s office; Caroline Moore, who is in Minister Tierney’s office; and also—if I have got all the names right from memory—Tara, Jun, Jeanette, Patrick, Michael and Ben from the department or ministers’ offices et cetera, who attended the bill briefing on the day and gave us, as I said, a summary of the amendments and answered our questions, which makes life a bit easier in here. I do put on record my sincere thanks to Paul, Caroline and all the staff in relation to the assistance they have provided.
Turning to the purposes of the bill, the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022 amends the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 to modernise provisions relating to the Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board, to reflect that AMES Australia is the only remaining adult education institution, to provide the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) with greater discretion to conduct a compliance audit of a registered training organisation (RTO), to modernise the framework for Victorian student numbers and to make other amendments to that act. And I will come back and spend a few moments just talking about the student numbers.
It also amends the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Act 2021 to ensure the VRQA retains a consistent set of compliance and enforcement powers and to make other amendments to that act. It also amends the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021 to provide that persons registered in respect of accredited foundation secondary courses and registered foundation secondary qualifications are subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the child safe standards. The bill also makes related and consequential amendments to the Public Administration Act 2004, the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 and the Worker Screening Act 2020. So you can see, as I commence my contribution, there are quite a number of amendments to several acts—all important and all part of the bill.
The main purposes of the bill are to, as I said:
… amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006—
in relation to the Adult, Community and Further Education Board; and
to remove adult education as a provider of adult, community and further education; and
to apply Division 5 of Part 3.3 of that Act exclusively to AMES Australia; and
to provide the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority with greater discretion to decide whether or not to conduct a compliance audit of a RTO; and
to modernise the framework for the access, use and disclosure of the Victorian student number and related information on the Student Register—
I will come back to that—
to provide that post-secondary education institutions and post-secondary education providers may provide education to persons who are of compulsory school age; and
to make other amendments …
And then, as I went on to say before, the second main purpose of the bill is:
(b) to amend the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021—
(i) to allow the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to issue notices to comply to registered schools, registered school boarding premises and RTOs; and
(ii) to lower the threshold for the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to issue a notice to produce; and
(iii) to disapply section 41BA of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 to remove the restrictions on the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority disclosing information it has obtained; and
(iv) to make other amendments …
And then subclause (c), in terms of purposes of the bill, is:
(c) to amend the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021—
(i) to ensure that a person, body or school that is registered in respect of an accredited foundation secondary course or a registered foundation secondary qualification is subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the Child Safe Standards under Parts 5A and 6 of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005; and
(ii) to make other amendments; and—
finally, nearly there—
(d) to amend the Public Administration Act 2004, the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 and the Worker Screening Act 2020 to make related and consequential amendments.
There is quite a mouthful there, but as I said in my opening comments to the contribution on the education legislation amendment bill, the bill does propose various amendments to several acts that are technical in nature, and I wanted to outline those and put them in my contribution into Hansard so that we are very clear what we are talking about here.
In terms of the main provisions, the bill proposes amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006—the education act; to the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005—the CWS act; and to the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021. Specifically it will amend the education act to clarify and modernise the powers, functions and governance arrangements of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, known as the ACFE board. The bill will remove adult education institutions as a category of providers of adult, community and further education and confine the provisions relating to adult education institutions to AMES Australia. There are a number of other provisions, or what the bill will specifically do, and I might take a few moments to outline all those points that are within the bill or have been mentioned by the minister in the second-reading speech.
Another main provision is to modernise the framework for access to, use and disclosure of the Victorian student number, VSN, and related information in the Victorian student register. As I mentioned before, I will come back briefly to talk about student numbers. We raised some concerns about how data is held in the Victorian student register and how it is managed by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, so I do want to touch on that and make a few comments.
The bill clarifies, in line with the original policy intent, that post-secondary education institutions and post-secondary education providers may provide education to people who are of compulsory school age, including to ensure those entities are subject to the child safe standards under the CWS act. It provides the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority with greater discretion on whether to conduct a compliance audit of a registered training organisation. It also allows the Minister for Education to appoint an acting member of the board of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership, and again, time permitting, I will come back and make a brief comment about board appointments.
The bill will also amend the CWS act, as amended by the CWS amendment act, to ensure that a person, body or school registered in respect of a foundation secondary course or foundation secondary qualification is subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the CSS. It allows for the VRQA to continue to use and disclose information about complaints in accordance with existing provisions in the education act and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Finally, the bill will amend the education act, as amended by the CWS amendment act, to lower the threshold for the VRQA to issue a notice to produce and to allow the VRQA to issue notices to comply to schools, school boarding premises and RTOs.
There were a couple of matters we raised at the bill briefing. Sometimes we call them ‘areas of concern’, but they were really just points we wanted clarification on to give us confidence in the bill and what it was aiming to achieve, so we raised a few of those. I will just put a couple on record here. Again, if I could thank the departmental staff for their clarification of some of those matters, which gave us confidence in those areas. Questions were raised about the change to allow the Minister for Education to appoint an acting member of the board of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. Clarification was given that the act currently does not allow the Minister for Education to appoint acting members to the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership and that this is inconsistent with the minister being able to appoint acting members to other boards under the minister’s responsibilities. So whilst that might have appeared to us as a bit of a red flag, we understand that is just bringing it in line with the appointment of acting members to other boards under the minister’s responsibility, and that change is to bring the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership in line with the current minister’s powers. I asked whether all board appointments are still a full cabinet process, and they are; this is just in relation to acting arrangements. Reassurances were given that all non-acting appointments are subject to full cabinet processes and consideration. It was pleasing to hear that those processes still exist for non-acting arrangements.
Concerns were also raised about access, use and disclosure of Victorian student data and information. I will turn to that in a moment. I got some information back on that—again, to give us a bit of confidence about access, use and disclosure of Victorian student data and information, which is front of mind and very important. Questions were raised about the requests for VSNs—Victorian student numbers—and related information from law enforcement bodies to support investigations or justice proceedings. Again, clarification was given regarding these requests: that they must be made from the relevant agency as opposed to an individual. The example that I think we raised at the bill briefing was that these cases can be sensitive but nevertheless it is very important that proper due process takes place—for example, if a parent in a custody case was also a police officer and how that could or could not operate—but participants at the bill briefing stressed the need for student privacy to be enshrined, and we were confident that that would be the case.
I might spend a little bit of time now, having gone through all those technical amendments and got those into the contribution, on a couple of questions that were raised at the bill briefing. Again, I am thankful to the minister’s senior adviser, Paul Frayne, who went and researched them and got back to us before the bill came before the house, which was terrific. I will just again put these on record for those who might be thinking about this or making a contribution to the debate on this bill; it may answer some of their questions in relation to that.
The first one was from one of our members on this side: how many requests in relation to the Victorian student number—the VSN—are we getting a year from Victoria Police or Australian Federal Police or other departments? We were interested in that data and those numbers. We were informed that the VSN data is held in the Victorian student register and managed by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, the VCAA. We were informed that the VCAA receives an average of about 50 requests per year directly from Victoria Police, in addition to an average of 30 requests made by welfare agencies such as family violence services, which are explicitly on behalf of Victoria Police. We were also informed that indirectly the VCAA receives an average of 2200 requests annually from welfare agencies investigating child welfare as a result of public reports.
The thorough information that we got back went on to inform us that an average of 1600 requests are submitted annually from other departments such as the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing as well as from a range of first-responder welfare services such as the Orange Door. I digress to just commend the work of the Orange Door which continues to be rolled out. I see firsthand some of the fantastic work that they do, so just while I am talking about the Orange Door I should put that on record. The purposes that the information is used for include the need for the educational history of young people facing the Children’s Court for the purposes of working with these young people, with the aim of re-engaging them in their education, which is important.
Again I will digress briefly for a few minutes. We have the Croydon Community School out in my electorate of Croydon, a wonderful school that does some terrific work in re-engaging young people who might drop out of their education or seek alternative paths in education. The old former Croydon secondary college on Croydon Road, which was going to be part of the Maroondah regeneration project, was merged onto one site at Melba Secondary College on Brentnall Avenue. That site was vacant and the school was vandalised and destroyed, but it is pleasing that a new school is being built, which we have advocated for and supported funding for. That school will probably open this year and will be a wonderful school for the Croydon community. I am reminded of their terrific work when I talk about the purposes of re-engaging young people in education. I just touch on that as I digress from the bill, with your indulgence, Deputy Speaker. It is a wonderful asset in my electorate, the Croydon Community School. As I was quoting:
The purposes that the information is used for include the need for the educational history of young people facing the Children’s Court, for the purposes of working with these young people with the aim of re-engaging them in their education. The Student wellbeing officers respond to requests from schools about students not attending school and other concerns such as student physical and mental health.
The response we got back went on to say that:
The VCAA has not received any enquiries from the AFP in recent years. Historically there have been a number of requests which involved child marriage, child sex cases and terrorism. Enquiries from the AFP are therefore not received by the VCAA with any regularity or volume, likely because information could not be provided as the AFP is not an authorised user and the request for information does not fall under the Child Information Sharing Scheme and/or the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme.
As I said, the original question was about how many requests there were and what were they used for, and that response alleviated our concerns and answered that question of the member. Another area that was raised at the bill briefing was:
Is there scope for authorised users or other persons who access the information on the Victorian Student Register to use the information for other unauthorised uses? For example, if Victoria Police becomes an authorised user under the Bill, would it be possible for random police officers who are also a parent of a child on the register accessing and using Victorian Student Number (VSN) inappropriately?
I am not for one suggesting that that would go on. But these concerns do get raised by people feeding information back on the bill, so it was important that we raised that question as a hypothetical. The answer we received was:
Access to VSN data is, and will continue to be, strictly limited to those persons who are authorised by the Secretary and for certain limited authorised purposes.
The legislation outlines that it is a criminal offence to access, use or disclose the data other than for the purposes set out in the legislation and the user’s authorisation. The maximum penalty for this offence is 30 penalty units (or $5452.20).
The Department will consider whether any inappropriate or improper access by an authorised user should be reported to Victoria Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on a case by case basis.
The Bill also permits the Secretary to make guidelines in relation to a range of matters including who the Secretary will consider to be appropriate to be an authorised user and also how authorised users should access, use and disclose the Victorian student number in a way that maintains and protects student’s privacy. Guidelines will be binding on authorised users and non-compliance with the guidelines may result in the Secretary revoking a person’s authorisation.
The advice we got back went on to say that:
It is proposed that the well-established protections in the Privacy and Data Protection Act (PDPA) will apply to those persons and bodies already subject to that Act. Additionally, it is proposed that further protections will be included by applying the requirements in the PDPA to authorised users who are not already bound by either that act or the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act).
Ensuring all authorised users are bound by robust privacy laws will maintain and protect the privacy of individuals to whom the information relates. There are consequences under the privacy legislation if a person breaches the Information Privacy principles.
An example that was given was that the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner has regulatory powers to undertake an investigation and issue a compliance notice if there is a serious breach of legislation. Further, the database itself is maintained by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in a secure environment which is tightly controlled, and decisions about access to the VSN are made by the VCAA on a case-by-case basis. I know I sound a bit like a broken record on this, but again very valid concerns were raised about authorised users, information protection and privacy, and that very thorough response that came back from the minister’s office was well received and welcome in allowing us to go back to some of the people that asked those questions and alleviate their concerns and put their minds to rest.
There were a couple of other quick ones that we raised. We talked about whether a parent is entitled to see the VSN data stored on the Victorian student register about the student. Is a parent entitled? We were informed that a parent may request a copy of the information held in the Victorian student register relating to their own child under section 5.3A.11 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (ETRA). This is an existing right and is consistent with the important privacy principle that an individual should be entitled to access any person’s information held by government authorities that relates to them and their children.
The final area that we raised was under what circumstances a police officer can access the VSN data, and we were informed that under the ETRA, as amended by the bill, VSN data will be able to be disclosed to a police officer in line with the PDPA. The disclosure can only be made for a limited list of purposes, such as the prevention and investigation of crime, preventing or detecting serious improper conduct or conducting court or tribunal proceedings. If an employee of Victoria Police wishes to access VSN data, they are required to specify a law enforcement purpose and submit a written request for information to the statutory authority that manages VSN data.
Again, it does make the process smooth for us in terms of when we get the opportunity to have a bill briefing to ask questions from people that are put to us, both from those that we consult with—important stakeholders that we consult with about legislation coming to this place—and our own team, the Liberal-Nationals coalition, who raise concerns or matters. We have got wide networks of people out there that raise matters that we can tap into on some of these issues that come up, and it is very pleasing that Paul Frayne, Carolyn Moore and the department officers, Tara, Jun, Jeanette, Patrick, Michael and Ben, were all able to assist in that bill briefing. Again I put on the record my thanks to them.
As I move to my conclusion on this bill, consultation is always important, and important stakeholders were engaged. I think most of us have got the same processes on this side of the house when a bill is introduced. We have a network of important stakeholders that we would engage through email and phone, inviting them to make a comment or give feedback on the bill. I did have a couple of responses in relation to this one, and it is pleasing that people do take the time to get back to us—the Principals Association Victoria; parent associations; the Australian Education Union, Victorian branch; and a number of important people we invite comments from. It, one, alerts them the legislation is coming in. We would hope in many cases the government has gone through a consultation about the legislation so they might be already aware, but it does alert them the legislation is coming in and invites them to make a comment about how that may or may not impact on them, and if it does in a detrimental way, to provide that feedback to us so we can raise it directly with the minister or the department officers or in that bill briefing process we can raise those concerns.
So I went through that process of engaging stakeholders by email or phone, sending them copies and links to the bill.
Mr HODGETT: I have got a list that is on record, member for Euroa. It was very helpful. We received no opposition to the bill by any of the stakeholders, and as I said, a number got back to us. It was pleasing that people were alert, and in the limited time constraints of running legislation through here and responding to it, it was good that they met the deadlines. So we are not opposing this bill. The amendments are mainly technical in nature, as I have said, and seek to improve various parts of the education and training system in the education act. Again, the feedback and advice on the proposed amendments to the legislation from a whole cohort of stakeholders was that the proposed changes will be beneficial to students who undertake training in registered training organisations outside of school settings. The proposed changes will provide greater consistency for students and their parents as they seek to support their child navigating challenges as they arise. So I look forward to the contributions of other members on this bill. Indeed I think a couple of last-minute matters were raised with me by the member for Eildon. The member for Eildon and the member for Euroa did raise some other matters. The member for Euroa in her contribution will raise the matter she wants to seek clarification on, so hopefully the minister may be able to come in, if he sums up on this bill, and perhaps clarify a couple of those matters.
Mr HODGETT: Well, we invite him to come in and sum up on the bill. Or indeed if he hears the member’s contribution, he may choose to get in touch directly to clarify that. The other matter that was raised, I think that we clarified that and answered that question. So we are not opposing the bill. I look forward to contributions on the bill. I look forward to seeing delivery in terms of what we have been reassured in relation to those concerns that were raised about access to student numbers, data and privacy and seeing how the bill will actually operate or function in what it is intended to do. I thank you for your indulgence. As I said, they are technical amendments. It was important to put them on record and get them into my contribution so that when we refer back to this matter we can actually see what it was designed to do. So with that, I will conclude my contribution, and I look forward to other contributions.
Mr EREN (Lara) (13:38): I am delighted to be able to speak on this very important bill before the house, which is the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. At the outset I would like to congratulate all of our education ministers: obviously the Minister for Education, the Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for Higher Education, and of course the Minister for Early Childhood as well, because we know that education is cradle to grave and it is lifelong learning. Education is one of those key aspects to making a civilised society, and obviously investment within education is crucial if we want to have a cohesive, civilised society.
I for one on this side of the house am very proud to be part of a government that concentrates very much on education regardless of socio-economic background. Obviously public education is key to making sure that all communities advance as they should, and they are entitled to access proper education as required. I use this phrase often, and it goes something like this: what if the cure for cancer was in the mind of a child that could not afford or access education? What if? That is why it is so important to give opportunities to all communities to have a proper education system whereby they can actually make a huge contribution towards society regardless of their socio-economic background. Before I get to the proper bill in terms of the technical amendments to this very important bill, I do want to highlight the numberplates that we have in this state—I think it is fair to say that we are the Education State. We understand the importance of education, and that is why we have invested literally billions of dollars over the past few years into education, and rightfully so. It does not matter where you live in Victoria, education is an important part of all of our lives, all the way from kinder and preschool through primary school and secondary and then higher learning. It is so important.
I do want to highlight, as the chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, that we have an inquiry at the moment on Victorian universities’ investment in skills, which is such an important part of our future, if I can say that, in terms of the expectations of growth within certain industries and sectors and accommodating the need to derive those skills from the population that we have here rather than trying to get those skills from abroad. That is why it is so important that all learning institutions are linked to one another to prepare for the future in terms of the massive pipeline of investments that we are making as a government to accommodate that jobs growth. There is no question that we are looking for many workers, particularly around construction. The infrastructure spend we have in this state is huge—over $110 billion over the next decade, which is around the same investment that the federal government is making nationally.
From our perspective as a government it is so important to make sure that education covers everything, particularly the health and wellbeing of students. I want to highlight again that since 2015 the Labor government has invested more than $25 billion to achieve our Education State reforms. Obviously we are committed to investing in school infrastructure. This has been demonstrated through the allocation of $12.8 billion over the past eight budgets to deliver more than 1850 school upgrades, open 75 of 100 new schools promised by 2026 and support around 17 400 jobs in construction and associated industries. It is worth putting this on the record because I think there is no other state government that invests in education like we do, and there is no state government in the history of this state that has made more investments than we have in our education sector. I think it is worth putting that on the record yet again. Since 2018–19 the Labor government has invested $592 million in reforming the senior secondary school system to prepare students for successful careers of the future, including $277 million in the 2022–23 budget. Can I just add that my electorate of Lara has done quite well. We have benefited—
Mr EREN: Thank you, as you are. Also, massive investment—since the start of 2019 well over $75 million has gone into education in the electorate of Lara. I know this firsthand because I have seen the regeneration work that has gone on in the Lara electorate over the past decade, and now we have come full circle with the secondary college getting the final $15.5 million that is required to refurbish that very important school.
In terms of what the bill’s intent is, the bill will amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005, which is also known as the CWS act, and the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021—the CWS amendment act—and it will clarify and modernise the powers, functions and governance arrangements of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board; remove adult education institutions as a category of providers of adult community and further education; confine the provisions relating to adult education institutions to AMES Australia; and modernise the framework for the access, use and disclosure of the Victorian student number, VSN, and related information to the Victorian student register, VSR. The bill will provide the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) with greater discretion on whether to conduct a compliance audit of a registered training organisation (RTO).
It will also clarify, in line with the original policy intent, that post-secondary education institutions and post-secondary education providers may provide education to people who are of compulsory school age, including to ensure those entities are subject to child safety standards under the CWS act. It will also ensure that a person, body or school registered in respect of a foundation secondary course or foundation secondary qualification is subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the CSS; allow the VRQA to continue to use and disclose information about complaints in accordance with the existing provisions in the education act and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014; lower the threshold of the VRQA to issue a notice to produce; and allow the VRQA to issue notices to comply to schools, school boarding premises and RTOs.
Of course, as I have outlined about the number of investments that have gone into education, those moneys that have been committed to education include capital works, disability inclusion programs, maintenance funding and many other amazing programs that we run as a government, which is fantastic to see, and I am very proud as a member to be part of a government that cares for education.
In addition to this, there have been massive investments into programs that students in my electorate benefit from, such as the school breakfast program and the doctors in schools program. They are wonderful programs that many students benefit from, particularly in areas of different socio-economic backgrounds. The list is truly remarkable, and I am certainly proud to be a member of a government that is so committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to learn for their future.
As a government we are investing significantly in senior secondary reform, helping students build their skills and capabilities to thrive in further education and training and move into a rewarding career. It is very important. We have got so many jobs lined up. One of the submissions that was made recently to the inquiry of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, from Engineers Australia, indicated that over the next number of years, because of the large program of investments in infrastructure, we would need something like 40 000 engineers—40 000—going forward, and obviously we need an education system to accommodate not just engineers but many other aspects of careers that we need to accommodate with the massive infrastructure spending. The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events is here as well. Obviously the Commonwealth Games will be a huge event in 2026 which will need a lot of workers. With those few things, I wish this bill a speedy passage and I commend it to the house.
Ms RYAN (Euroa) (13:48): It is a pleasure to rise this afternoon to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. I must at the outset congratulate the member for Croydon, the Shadow Minister for Education, for speaking for his full 30 minutes on this legislation. I noticed with interest that the Leader of the House this morning, when speaking on the government business program, referred to the reforming legislation that the government is bringing forward this week. I would have to say that it is probably a little bit of a stretch to refer to this bill as social reform. I think the Minister for Education himself in his second-reading speech referred to it as largely technical amendments, so due credit to the shadow minister for speaking for 30 minutes. He did list the minister’s advisers and departmental officials four times in his speech, but nevertheless, he spoke for his full 30 minutes and for that he should be congratulated.
I do, though, think that it reflects a broader pattern that we are seeing from across the government in terms of their legislative program, where they are bringing forward pieces of legislation in the last sitting weeks of the Parliament that are very much uncontroversial in nature and that they hope or expect will fly through the upper house because numbers there are very precariously balanced for the government. So I do actually think it is quite a stretch to say that the government is bringing in a lot of reforming legislation at the moment.
But some of the purposes of this bill are to make some changes to the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, the ACFE board; to remove adult education institutions as a provider of adult, community and further education; to provide the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority with greater discretion to decide whether or not to conduct a compliance audit of a registered training organisation; and to change the framework for access, use and disclosure of the Victorian student number and related information on the student register. There are a number of other purposes as well.
As the shadow minister outlined, we will not be opposing this legislation, but I do want to make a few comments about the adult, community and further education sector in particular. I had the pleasure of having the training portfolio for the opposition for four years, and I really enjoyed getting to know the sector—ACFE but also the entire sector. I always found the people who are engaged in this space and working in this space to be particularly dedicated and passionate about the work that they do. I had the opportunity to travel the state and meet with many of the ACFE providers that we have around the state. They are so dedicated to their work because they do understand that they really are working at the coalface in endeavouring to get Victorians, many of whom have faced real disadvantage through their lives, back into the training sector or perhaps into it for the first time, upskilling them and getting them through to the workforce. That is very important and powerful work in changing often generational disadvantage in this state.
In my own electorate I have two Learn Locals that are under the Adult, Community and Further Education Board. I have the Rushworth Community House, and also Euroa Health has started as a Learn Local provider. These organisations in communities like Rushworth and Euroa are particularly important, because for those communities, if you wish to access any kind of training, you would have to travel quite a distance if these organisations did not exist. People in Rushworth would have to go to Bendigo or to Shepparton in order to access training, and similarly Euroa people would have to go to Benalla or Shepparton. As you would know, Deputy Speaker, as a regional member of Parliament, in our communities, particularly for disadvantaged jobseekers or those who are looking to upskill, we do not have a lot of access to public transport and many of those people do not have access to a car, so being able to travel to access those training opportunities is often very, very difficult. And so these Learn Locals, which exist very much at that community level and are very accessible to people, are really important to people being able to, in lots of cases, turn their life around. It might even just be someone who has dropped out of the workforce for a few years—they may have had a baby, they may be a parent, they may have faced some particular obstacles or they may be older or retired and looking to keep their mind engaged and to keep busy. These organisations, particularly in those regional communities like Rushworth and Euroa, are absolutely a critical part of our social fabric, so I certainly wanted to take this opportunity to thank them for that very important work that they do.
I am interested to note that clause 12 of this bill means that the ACFE board is no longer required to have regard to the advice of regional councils, and that seems to me to be a bit of a stripping back of the roles and responsibilities of those regional councils and the roles that they have traditionally played with the ACFE board. It seems to me, from my reading of this legislation, that the government is reducing their role to be basically no more than loose consultative bodies now. We do have eight ACFE regional councils around the state; they are located in Barwon south-west, eastern metropolitan, Gippsland, Grampians, Hume, Loddon Mallee, north-west metro and southern metro. Traditionally they have been responsible for providing feedback to the ACFE board on the specific needs of local regions, advising the board about the specific skills that are needed across their regions and monitoring the delivery of adult education across those respective regions. They also have provided a role in contributing to statewide planning and policy around adult, community and further education, so they do play an important role. I would really welcome government members perhaps explaining why the government is whittling back the role of those regional councils. I would not be surprised if it has been difficult to find people to fill them. I do know they are predominantly served in a voluntary capacity, those appointments, which are made by the minister. But I would really welcome government members seeking to explain that change there.
I also just want to point to clause 15, which changes the set of skills required when someone is appointed by the minister to the ACFE board. The government is changing the wording ‘management expertise’ to ‘government expertise’, which they say is broader. Again, I would not find it a surprise if the government was finding it difficult to find suitably qualified people to fill the ACFE board, and in saying that I make absolutely no reflection on the board that is there. I know that it is currently being chaired by Maria Peters, who I had the great pleasure of engaging with when I held the shadow portfolio and when she was the CEO of Chisholm Institute. I know that Maria is very widely respected across the training sector. She was widely respected I think by both sides of politics for the experience that she brought to training and to TAFE in Victoria in particular. But I do find it very interesting that the government is finding it necessary to broaden the skill set that is provided there on the ACFE board, and I would welcome an explanation from government members with respect to that.
With the time remaining that I have, I just want to touch on the area of the bill that deals with giving the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority the power to issue notices to comply to school boarding premises and registered training organisations. My electorate is very, very fortunate to have two boarding schools in Kilmore, both the Kilmore International School and Assumption College, Kilmore. The international school has been facing challenges in recent times, and I believe it may actually be relocating from Kilmore to Wallan, which is a really big disappointment to the Kilmore community. But we are very fortunate to have ACK, and I am sure many people in the chamber are aware of Assumption College. It is a mainstay of our region, and it is a school of choice for students, particularly historically those coming from northern Victoria but also from the southern Riverina. It takes its governance and its student welfare very, very seriously. It is a Marist school, and I was very pleased recently to actually attend the opening of a new sports pavilion that they have named in honour of one of their alumni, Neale Daniher, who of course faces a huge fight with MND at the moment. It is a real credit to that school and to the strength of its alumni that it has been able to raise the funding to construct that new sports pavilion, but I would also say that the ongoing nature of that school and its strength into the future is incredibly important to the Kilmore community. With those remarks I commend the bill to the house, and we will not be opposing it.
Ms KILKENNY (Carrum) (13:58:118:): Thanks for the opportunity to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. We are indebted to the member for Croydon for taking us through the technical amendments in this bill in quite some detail. I am always delighted to stand in this place and to speak on an education bill, because as we all know it is the Andrews Labor government that has committed to establish Victoria as the Education State. We have done that because we know that education transforms lives, it changes lives and it absolutely shapes lives as well. That is why the Andrews Labor government has committed more than $25 billion to achieve our Education State reforms. It is something I am certainly very proud of, and I know those on this side of the house are very proud of as well, for the extraordinary potential and opportunity that that delivers not only for our youngest Victorians but for all Victorians as we know education is a lifelong journey. Some of the reforms and some of the amendments set out in this bill address education for adults, for members of our culturally and linguistically diverse communities and for all Victorians. And of course with our $25 billion investment in education and making Victoria—
Business interrupted under sessional orders.