University submissions 2012

Commonwealth Treasury – Not For Profit Tax Concession Working Group Discussion Paper – December 2012

On 12 February 2012, the Minister for Social Inclusion and the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Mark Buter and the Hon Mark Arbib, announced the membership and terms of reference for the Not-For Profit Sector Tax Concession Working Group.

The working group is considering ideas for better delivering the support currently provided through tax concessions to the not-for-profit (NFP) sector. These include concessions for income tax, fringe benefits tax (FBT) and goods and services tax (GST), and deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.

In November 2012 Treasury released a detailed [[]] designed to stimulate engagement with the NFP sector and other stakeholders about the appropriateness of current tax concessions and areas for improvement.

Most Australian universities are established by Acts of Parliament for public good purposes, and currently receive a range of tax concessions as well as deductible gift recipient status. The Discussion Paper contained a number of proposals, which if introduced could impact negatively on the University’s capacity to pursue its public good objectives.

The University’s submission of 18 December 2012 sought to complement more detailed submission made on behalf of the sector by Universities Australia, and by Ernst & Young for a subset of institutions. It called, among other things, for the Working Group and Treasury to work with other relevant agencies to ensure that the outcomes of the Review deliver an integrated package of reforms for the Australian higher education and public good research sectors, designed to create an operating environment where they can grow stronger and underpin Australia’s knowledge economy in the Asian Century.

Health Workforce Australia (HWA) – draft national clinical placement guidelines – November 2012

Health Workforce Australia is a Commonwealth statutory authority that reports to the Council of Australian Governments Standing Council on Health which comprises the nine health ministers in each state, territory and the Commonwealth.

One of HWA’s key responsibilities is to develop solutions that integrate workforce planning, policy and reform with the complementary reforms of education and training.

HWA is developing national guidelines for clinical placement agreements with the objective of assisting individuals and organisations involved in clinical education and training to develop new, or to review existing, clinical placement agreements. HWA released draft guidelines for comment in November 2012.

The University’s comments on the draft guidelines were prepared in consultation with the Deans and Heads of the University’s health faculties and schools, and its Clinical Training Advisory Committee (CTAC).

The University strongly supports this HWA initiative. Its submission emphasised the importance of including in the guidelines the principle of recognising clinical supervision responsibilities in the workloads of health professionals, and of service providers having strong and measurable commitments to education, training, innovation and improvement as acknowledged and valued aspects of their role in serving the community. The submission also argued that HWA should take the project one step further, turning the guidelines into a template agreement that can be used and adapted ‘off the shelf’ by organisations interested in establishing or renewing clinical placement agreements.

Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) – Copyright Inquiry – October 2012

In February 2012 the Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon, appointed Professor Jill McKeough as Commissioner in charge of the Copyright Inquiry. Professor McKeough took leave from her position as Dean of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney, to join the ALRC for the duration of this inquiry.

The objective of the inquiry is for the ALRC to consider whether exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act 1968 are adequate and appropriate in the digital environment and whether further exceptions should be recommended. The ALRC received Terms of Reference on 29 June 2012 and released an Issues Paper on 20 August 2012.

The University contributed advice and information for a detailed submission provided by Universities Australia on behalf of all Australian universities. According to the Universities Australia submission, copyright is rapidly emerging as the next major intellectual property challenge for all leading industrialised economies due to the ever-increasing pervasiveness of digital technology. A copyright regime that safeguards the rights of copyright owners and encourages research and innovation is not inconsistent with a regime that acknowledges the special position of users, particularly education sector users. A flourishing digital economy is one based not only on the production and distribution of knowledge, but also on its use.

Given the significance of these issues to the University’s education and research activities, the University made a separate submission intended to complement the Universities Australia submission and give emphasis to some key matters of interest.

The ALRC is due to report to the Attorney General by 30 November 2013.

Defence Trade Controls Bill Update – November 2012

Further background information about the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 can be found below in updates provided in January and August 2012, and through the Parliament and Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee websites.

The Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 passed the Senate on 31 October 2012 and has now become the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012.

For an overview of the issues from the University’s perspective, and events that led to the passage of the Bill through Parliament between 29 and 31 October 2012, see the paper released by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Jill Trewhella, on 17 November 2012.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) – Independent Public Review of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) – November 2012

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is a statutory authority that operates as part of the Australian Government's development cooperation programs. The Centre encourages Australia's agricultural scientists to use their skills for the benefit of developing countries and Australia.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Bob Carr, commissioned a review of ACIAR in the second half of 2012. This represents the first independent public review of ACIAR since the Nairn Review in 1998. It comes as ACIAR enters its fourth decade of operation and following substantial growth in its funding and activities in recent years. The objective of the review is to examine the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and make recommendations for improvements.

The University has had a long and significant association with the ACIAR over many years; leading or partnering in collaborative research, development and capacity building projects across the region that have served to alleviate poverty in diverse and innovative ways. Its submission to the review included input from six different parts of the University: the International Portfolio; the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment: the Faculty of Veterinary Science; the School of Geosciences within the Faculty of Science; the Sydney Medical School; the Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute and the Office of General Counsel.

The University’s submission stressed, among other issues: the fundamental importance of building capacity in the target countries; supporting cross-sectoral, multi-disciplinary “One Health” approaches; streamlining administration and simplifying contracting.

NSW Department of Education and Communities – Independent Review of Agricultural Education and Training in NSW – November 2012

On 18 July 2012 the NSW Minister for Education the Hon Adrian Piccoli and the NSW Minister for Primary Industries the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson, announced terms of reference for an independent review of agricultural education and training in NSW.

The Review seeks to consider the appropriateness of agricultural education and training programs in NSW school and tertiary sectors, the promotion of career opportunities in the sector, and how the education and training system might be improved to best meet the industry’s future needs. Professor Jim Pratley from Charles Sturt University is chairing the review and an Issues Paper was released to stimulate discussion debate and inform face-to-face consultations.

The University’s submission of 23 November 2012 was prepared in consultation with the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the Faculty of Veterinary Science. It noted the significant challenges the state faces in meeting the future workforce needs of the agricultural sector and provided a range of ideas designed, for example, to enhance levels of interest in agricultural careers among current and prospective students.

A final report and recommendations will be provided to the Ministers by 30 June 2013.

Department of Health and Ageing – Independent Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research (McKeon Review) – Consultation Paper – October 2012

Further background information about the McKeon Review can be found below in an update provided in April 2012, and through the Review website. Following six months of consultation the Review Panel released an Issues and Recommendations paper for public consultation in October.

The University submission in response to the consultation paper was broadly supportive of the directions proposed. It argued that funding for health education and research must be viewed as a core part of the overall sustainability of the health system – not an optional extra. Moreover, it suggested that funding must be sufficient to meet reasonable costs, cross-subsidisation and complexity should be minimised, while the overall approach to the regulation of health and medical research should be based on the principles of regulatory necessity and proportionality. The University's submission can be found here

Australian Research Council (ARC) – Open Access Policy – September 2012

In February 2012 the National Health and Medical Research Council announced a new open access policy making it mandatory for any publications arising from NHMRC-supported research to be deposited in an open access institutional repository with 12 months of publication.

In September 2012 the CEO of the Australian Research Council, Professor Aidan Byrne, wrote to Australian universities and other research organisations advising of the ARC’s intention to bring its policies regarding the dissemination of ARC-supported research into alignment with the new NHMRC policy. The letter sought comments on a draft ARC Open Access Policy.

The University’s submission offered strong support for the objective of making publicly funded Australian research publicly available to enhance its accessibility and impact. However, the University also stressed the need for further negotiations with major publishers of academic research to ensure that appropriate copyright licences are provided to allow the publications to be released through institutional repositories within the proposed 12 month timeframe.

NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure – A New Planning System for NSW Green Paper – September 2012

On 14 July 2012 the Joint Chairs of the NSW Government’s review of the state’s planning system, Tim Moore and the Hon Ron Dyer, released the findings from their year long process of consultation and analysis. On the same day the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, The Hon Brad Hazzard, released the Government’s response in the form of a policy Green Paper.

The University had contributed to the Planning Review through multiple submissions made on behalf of all NSW universities by the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. The University’s comments on the Green Paper supported a more lengthy submission made by NSWVCC, which reiterated the need for the planning system to recognise the particular characteristics of universities and the contribution they make to the state’s economy and society.

AusAID – draft Medical Research Strategy – August 2012

On 8 August 2012 AusAID released a draft Medical Research Strategy for public comment. The development of such a strategy followed the release by Australian Government of its response to an Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness completed in November 2011.

The University's submission strongly supported the concept of developing a Medical Research Strategy as an integral part of Australia overall international aid program. It raised some concerns, however, about the narrowness of the draft’s focus on medical research, when the alleviation of poverty is complex, requiring multifaceted and multi-disciplinary approaches.

Australian Qualifications Framework Council (AQFC) – Graduate and Vocational Graduate Certificates and Diplomas in the Australian Qualifications Framework Discussion Paper – July 2012

In June 2012 the AQF Council released a Discussion Paper, Graduate and Vocational Graduate Certificates and Diplomas in the Australian Qualifications Framework. The paper contained a number of proposals for reform to the treatment of these qualifications under the AQF arising from a review commenced in November 2011, to which the University contributed.

The June 2012 Discussion Paper canvassed, among other reforms, the removal of the Graduate Certificate from the AQF without an appropriate replacement. In its response the University did not support this proposal, arguing that such a move would disadvantage a significant cohort of current and future students who use the qualification to upgrade skills, often in niche areas, or as a pathway to Masters qualification.

Many higher education providers and other organisations expressed similar concerns and in August 2012 the AQFC announced that the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma qualification types would be retained in the AQF at level 8.

Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRT) - Australian Research Committee (ARCom) & National Research Investment Plan (NRIP) - August 2012

The ARCom (Australia Research Committee) and the National Research Investment Plan (NRIP) have their origins in the recommendations of DIISR’s Focusing Australia’s Publicly Funded Research Review - Maximising the Innovation Dividend (October 2011) which examined how the current public investment model supports the 10 year innovation agenda set out in Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st Century. ARCom comprises three groups representing Commonwealth departments, expert advisors, and publicly funded research organisations each chaired by the Chief Scientist, who reports to the Minister.

ARCom is developing a National Research Investment Plan (NRIP) to guide and coordinate commonwealth research investment to ensure Australia develops and maintains vital research capacity. The NRIP will support future decisions by the Government in relation to the level and balance of research investment for the period from 2013-14 to 2015-16 and presents a major opportunity to re-shape Australia’s approach to research investment and put it on a strategic footing. The NRIP will consider:

  • an overview of the location and capabilities of Australia's excellent researchers and innovators
  • areas of world class collaborative research activities
  • areas of demand by industry, government and other end users; and
  • future priorities for major strategic research investments.

ARCom released an NRIP discussion paper (July 2012) which was given limited circulation among key stakeholders. ARCom also conducted public consultations and private meetings across Australia.

The University of Sydney made a submission to the discussion paper, contributed to the UA submission, and participated in the ARCom hosted Sydney-based public consultation and meeting of NSW-based DVCs Research.

ARCom is expected to provide advice to the Australian Government on the NRIP by the end of September.

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee – Update on its Inquiry into the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 (Cth) - August 2012

This report updates the earlier report on this process available here.

On 15 August 2012 the Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Senator Ursula Stephens (NSW), tabled a preliminary report on the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 (Cth). The full report is available through the Committee’s website.

The Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 seeks to give effect to a treaty between the Australian and United States' governments concerning defence trade cooperation. It provides for controls on intangible transfers (e.g. demonstration, email, fax, internet) of information about technology and services related to items on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL). If enacted into law the Bill would create a registration and permit regime for the brokering of DSGL goods and technology, and create criminal offences and penalties for breaches of the law.

The Committee’s report represents a very good outcome for academic staff involved in scientific research that depends upon collaboration with foreign citizens. The practical effect of the Report is to delay passage of the Bill through the Senate, providing industry, the public research sector and other stakeholders more time to work with Defence on outstanding issues. The Senate will now not hand down its final report until 31 October 2012. It has expressed hope that the various issues that remain unresolved between Defence and the university sector can be addressed before the end of the year.

The Committee has acknowledged the concerns of the University of Sydney, Universities Australia and others regarding the likely effect of the bill on the university and broader research community. It has registered significant concerns about the shortcomings in the consultation process to date: “The committee is disappointed with the consultation undertaken by Defence in regards to this bill. Evidence provided to the committee demonstrates that the consultation conducted by Defence was started too late in the process; lacked transparency; and was not conducted in a way which encouraged consensus in solving the policy problems at hand. The committee draws Defence's attention to the issues outlined in this report.” (paragraph 5.22)

The Committee has found that “the bill as currently drafted would simply not deliver on its stated intention that the proposed controls would be limited to high-end specialist research and thus have a limited regulatory and administrative impact on universities” (5.2). Moreover, the Committee is “firmly of the view that more groundwork is needed to refine the proposed legislation” (1.17) and that “unless Defence can provide assurances to the contrary, the committee believes that it would be folly to proceed with the bill at this time while the resolution of important matters remains outstanding” (1.19).

On this basis, the Committee has recommended that more time is needed to allow Defence to conduct a full and transparent consultation, and has endorsed the proposal for the Chief Scientist to facilitate a roundtable of various stakeholders to address outstanding issues (4.27).

The Committee reports that it is encouraged by the willingness of researchers and universities to work with Defence to find a way to strengthen export controls without unnecessarily interfering with the work of research organisations and universities (5.6), and “believes that the bill should proceed once all issues have been resolved through extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders and adequate time has been allowed for government to consider and approve the option finally accepted by all sectors” (5.9).

The University of Sydney remains committed to working with Defence and others stakeholders to find balanced, cost effective and workable outcomes to what are very complicated problems. The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Jill Trewhella, has played an important role in the negotiations to date and is expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Various University of Sydney and Universities Australia submissions are available through the Committee’s website. Submissions are available through the same site from the Department of Defence, the Australian Research Council (ARC), The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) and the Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRC Association), the Group of Eight Universities (Go8) and various other stakeholders.

House of Representatives Economics Committee – Changes to the treatment of the Living Away From Home Allowance – July 2012

In its Mid-Year budget update of November 2011 the Australian Government announced its intention to reform tax treatment of the Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA) to tighten eligibility and increase the tax base. In the 2012-13 budget of 8 May 2012, the Government announced additional changes designed to further tighten eligibility for the LAFHA. Under the combined changes, which will now apply from 1 October 2012 (as opposed to 1 July 2012 as originally announced) the current concessional treatment of the LAFHA will only be allowed where the employee maintains a principal residence in Australia and needs to move away from that home for work purposes. Furthermore, a 12 month limit will be placed on how long an employee can receive the concession at a particular work location. Treasury estimates that the measures will deliver the Government $1.9 billion in additional revenues over four years.

These changes are of relevance to the University and some of its employees because the LAFHA arrangements have been used to attract academic and professional staff to work in Sydney on short term projects. While significant numbers of current staff are affected by the proposed changes, the University is also concerned that the reforms will reduce its capacity to attract high quality candidates to work temporarily in Sydney, a city acknowledged internationally as one of the most expensive in the world.

The Treasury ran consultations on the reforms from November 2011 to February 2012.

The Bill giving effect to the Government’s LAFHA and other proposed reforms was introduced to Parliament on 28 June 2012 and referred to the House of Representatives Economic Committee for inquiry and report.

The University of Sydney’s submission documents the impact that the reforms will have on current staff and calls for improved transitional arrangements to ensure that the changes do not apply to any staff with contracts entered into before the Government announced its intention to change the law. It also urges the Committee to consider amending the Bill to minimise the impact of the reforms on the recruiting capacity of Australian universities in areas of recognised skills shortage.

Following the submission, Professor Ann Brewer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Strategic Management led a University team, which gave evidence before the Committee in Canberra on Thursday 26 July 2012. Please see here for the draft transcript.

Representatives of the Group of Eight universities, accounting and tax professionals, employer and employee groups also appeared before the Committee.

On Wednesday, 15 August 2012, the House Standing Committee on Economics presented its report on the Bill. The report is available here.

Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRT) – Higher Education Staff Data Collection Review - June 2012

On 25 May 2012, DIISRT released an Issues Paper to inform a Review of its longstanding Higher Education Staff Data Collection. The purpose of the Review is to determine how effectively the collection meets the needs of key stakeholders, and to consider recent issues raised by the sector and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).
The Higher Education Staff Data Collection has not been formally reviewed since it was established in 1989. The Issues Paper was developed in consultation with the Government’s Higher Education Data Reference Group and sought the views of stakeholders on a range of proposed changes.
The University contributed to the preparation of detailed submissions by Universities Australia and the Group of Eight universities. Given the importance of the staff data collection to the sector and the University, and the significance of some of the changes proposed in the Issues Paper, the University also made brief submission in its own right. The University’s submission welcomed the Review. It strongly supported the need for any changes to the collection to be based on a clear articulation of the strengths or weaknesses of the current data, and the purposes and uses intended for any new information. The University’s submission also stressed the importance of the Review balancing the costs to providers of collecting data against the benefits, and the need to consider the possible impact of the proposed changes on vital research funding and other programs.

Commonwealth Australian Education International - International Education Advisory Council: Development of an international education strategy for Australia - June 2012

On 14 October 2011, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator the Hon Chris Evans, announced the formation of the International Education Advisory Council (IEAC). The Council is to provide advice to the Australian Government to help inform the development of a five year national strategy to support the sustainability and quality of the international education sector.

More information about the IEAC can be found on its website.

The IEAC on 24 April 2012 released a discussion paper on the future of international education in Australia and invited submissions by 8 June 2012. The discussion paper is part of the Council’s process to inform the development of a national strategy for international education. The discussion paper outlines key factors that have influenced international education in Australia and around the world, proposes some broad directions that could form the basis of a national strategy, and poses some discussion questions.

Sydney University’s submission was prepared in collaboration with the Office of the DVC International, the International Office, the Office of Marketing and Communications, the Office of Alumni Relations and Events, the Graduate Studies Office, the Institute for Teaching and Learning, and the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA).

The submission made reference to the various other submissions which the University has made to federal and state government about processes relevant to the internationalisation of the Australian higher education sector.

The University declared its support for a the development of a national strategy for the internationalisation of Australian education and for the recent reforms to visa processing , post qualification work rights for students and the changes to the skilled migration test.

The submission raised the University’s concerns about workplace training for international students and growth of domestic student numbers placing pressure on the supply of training placements which has negative implications for access by international students.

The discussion paper proposed the development of an agency modelled on Tourism Australia to be responsible for coordination, marketing and promotion, but the University urged caution in relation to this model and offered alternative ideas for improvement.

NSW Parliamentary Inquiry - Workers Compensation Scheme NSW - May 2012

In May 2012, Greg Pearce, MLA issued a discussion paper about the current status of the Workers Compensation Scheme in NSW. Key aspects of this discussion paper were that the Scheme was at the current time $4.1b in deficit. Contributing to this deficit were high claim liabilities, particularly wages and medical liabilities, falling levels of performance of current scheme agents since 2008, particularly in their management of older claims, for which no further premium could be collected from policy holders. Furthermore the paper suggested that a difficult investment environment had redueced the likelihood of the fund to deliver adequate income.

The purpose of the Issues paper was to examine possible legislative changes that may be made to the Scheme. Suggested in the issues paper was an examination of the viability of coverage for injuries incurred on the journey to and from work, better management of medical treatment, better wage support for the more severely injured, work capability testing and changes to the administration of Whole Person Impairment entitlements. That discussion paper is available here.

The University’s submission to the NSW Workers Compensation Parliamentary Inquiry is available here.

The key points that the University made in its submission include

  • Review of liability for injuries incurred whilst on the journey to and from work;
  • Review of timing and size of drop down of wages (drop down to be earlier, but size of drop to be less than the current harsh drop to a statutory rate). This, we believe would better protect the more severely injured;
  • Accreditation of GPs to participate in the Workers Compensation Scheme as Nominated Treating Doctors;
  • Accreditation of technically skilled employers enabling a more meaningful partnership with their WorkCover agent;
  • Closer examination of a work capacity testing system whereby any recommendations are enforceable and able to have a positive impact on earlier return to work and effective treatment;
  • Focus of the all injury management to be capacity based (as opposed to current incapacity focus);
  • Consideration of co-pay system designed to motivate injured workers and doctors whereby injured workers and accredited nominated treating doctors are reimbursed costs only after they return to the workplace and within normal recovery timeframes.

Charitable Fundraising Reform - April 2012

The Government has a broad reform agenda for the not for profit sector. In the May 2011-12 Budget, the Government announced a number of measures as part of its commitment to drive major reforms in the not-for-profit sector. More information about these reviews can be found on the Not for Profit Reform Website.

In March 2012, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon David Bradbury MP, released a consultation paper on reform of charitable fundraising regulation as well as an information factsheet.

The Government is consulting on regulatory arrangements for charitable fundraising that would aim to reduce the compliance burden faced by charities.

The University’s submission, made in April, was prepared in collaboration with the Office of General Council, the Development Office and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research - April 2012

In September 2011 it was announced that Simon McKeon would chair a panel tasked with an independent review of health and medical research in Australia and recommend a 10-year strategic health and medical research plan for the nation. Mr McKeon is joined by leading Australian researchers and prominent business leaders including Professor Ian Frazer, Bill Ferris AC, Elizabeth Alexander, Professor Henry Brodaty and Professor Melissa Little to carry out this review. Further information about the review can be found on the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research website.

The panel called for public submissions to be received by the end of March. This will be followed by a period of public and private stakeholder consultation in each capital city from April through July with the panel intending to provide their final report to the Minister in late 2012.

The University’s submission was prepared through the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) with contributions from Professor Graham Mann.

Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Framework - March 2012

In December 2010, Michael Knight AO was appointed the Hon Chris Evans to conduct an independent review into the Student Visa Program. See here for information about the University's engagement with the Knight Review process. Mr Knight delivered his report on 30 June 2011, making 41 recommendations.

In September 2011 the government announced its response to the Knight review and a key part of this response was to accept the recommendation that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) undertake a review of the Student Visa Assessment Level (AL) framework. DIAC released a discussion paper in January 2012 seeking submissions from stakeholders by 16 March.

A sector wide submission was made by Universities Australia on behalf of the tertiary education providers. Sydney University’s contribution to this submission was facilitated through a series of consultations and discussions with representatives from the DVC Education Portfolio and the International Office. This submission can be found on the Universities Australia website.

The Go8 also made a response broadly supporting the Universities Australia submission and this can be found here.

Chemical Security Consultations - March 2012

In March 2012, the Attorney-General's Department held a consulation period seeking submissions in relation to the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement on precursor chemicals to homemade explosives.

More information about this process can be found on the Attorney General's website.

The University's submission was prepared in collaboration with representatives from the School of Chemistry, the Faculty of Science and the University's OH&S Unit. The University's submission was made to the Government on 30 March.

International Education and Research Industry Action Plans - March 2012

As part of its Industry Action Plans, on 5 March the NSW Govt released its NSW International Education and Research Industry Action Plan Issues Paper with a request for submissions by 25 March.

This is in addition to the request in November last year to provide submissions about other industry areas. See the 2011 Higher Education submissions page for more information about this.

For the International Education and Research Action Plan, the University's submission was written with the collaboration of the Office of Government Relations, the International Office and the Offices of the DVCs Research and Education. While the University's submission is high level, the document outlines suggestions which, the University considers, would lead to improvements in the research and international education elements of higher education.

Australia in the Asian Century Review – March 2012

On 28 September 2011, the Prime Minister commissioned a White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, to be chaired by former Treasury Secretary, Dr Ken Henry AC.

The purpose of the White Paper is to identify what actions Australia should take to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges arising for it from growth and other developments in the Asia region.

In December 2011 Dr Henry and his Advisory Panel released an initial Issues Paper to elicit views from interested parties about a wide range of issues relevant to the development of the White Paper. That discussion paper is available here.

The University’s submission to the Issues Paper is available here.

The key points the University made in its submission include the importance of the people-to-people relationships formed through international education and research collaboration and how this underpins Australia’s engagement with Asia. The submission emphasised that issues of international student mobility and research collaboration need to be addressed, as well as needing to ensure an improved and sustainable educational experience for international students. The establishment of the University’s China Studies and South East Asia Centres was explained as part of the University’s international strategy of engaging with and increasing knowledge about Asia.

Refreshing the National Research Priorities - March 2012

The National Research Priorities (NRPs) were introduced in 2002 to focus investment in research where there were likely to be significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Australia.

Following a review, Focussing Australia’s Publicly Funded Research (Nov 2011), DIISRTE have developed a consultation paper, National Research Priorities, 2012 Process to Refresh the Priorities (Feb 2012), seeking feedback on changes proposed to the NRPs and the associated priority goals, to

  1. refresh the NRPs to better reflect the priority of the humanities, arts and social sciences to the national research enterprise and
  2. refine the priority goals underneath the NRP (e.g., include non-defence national security issues)

These changes seek to ensure that scientific and technical applications, with economic, social and ethics implications, take account of the community’s capacity to initiate and respond to change. The university’s submission, dated 6 March 2012, is available here.

NSW Planning System Review (Moore & Dyer Review) Issues Paper – March 2012

In mid 2011 the NSW Government commenced a major strategic review of the State’s planning system: the NSW Planning System Review. The Review is being chaired jointly by Mr Tim Moore, Senior Commissioner of the Land and Environment Court and Mr Ron Dyer, Former NSW Government Minister.

During 2011 the University collaborated with all other universities in NSW through the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NSWVCC) to prepare an initial joint submission to the review. That submission, dated 1 November 2011, is available here.

In December 2011 the Review released an Issues Paper, calling for further written submissions from stakeholders. The University and other members of the NSWVCC were disappointed that many of the issues raised in the initial NSWVCC submission were not picked up in the Issues Paper.

Accordingly a second submission was prepared and provided to the Review by NSWVCC on 29 February 2012.

While the NSWVCC submission addressed various matters of detail, its broad objective is to achieve recognition in the NSW Planning system and processes of the need to recognise and encourage the development of the university sector in NSW as a valued and key component of the State’s economy.

Australian Qualification Framework Review – February 2012

In November 2012 the Australian Qualifications Council (AQF) released a consultation paper as part of a review of the AQF Graduate and Vocational Graduate Certificates and Diploma qualification types.

The reason for the Review is that during the consultations undertaken by the Council on strengthening the AQF, stakeholders raised concerns about issues including:

  • That there was a need to better define the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma qualification types. The views expressed included differentiating between qualifications used for ‘broadening’ and ‘extension or deepening’ in a discipline/field of study and distinguishing between qualifications that are graduate or postgraduate in purpose.
  • That the distinction between Vocational Graduate Certificates/Diplomas and Graduate Certificate/Diplomas may no longer be relevant. Currently, the former are accredited in the vocational education and training sector and the latter are accredited in the higher education sector.

The University’s response to the issues raised in the consultation paper, dated 24 February 2012, is available here.

Advancing Quality in Higher Education Initiative – February 2012

On 9 December 2011 the then Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Chris Evans, released for discussion three papers on the Government’s plans for the future measurement of higher education teaching and learning performance.

The three discussion papers were:

  • Development of Performance Measurement Instruments in Higher Education - which explored the balance of performance measurement instruments, potential uses, deployment methods and participation and selection of students;
  • Review of the Australian Graduate Survey – which examined the strategic position of the AGS in its relationship with other survey instruments, administration methods, timeliness and capacity to measure the diversity of the student experience; and
  • Assessment of Generic Skills – which focused on the development of an instrument appropriate for measuring and comparing the generic skills of students at Australian universities.

In summary, the Government intends to introduce a new annual University Experience Survey (UES) nationally from 2012 onwards. The survey will cover undergraduate students only and it is intended that the results will be published on the My University website at a level of detail that will be determined following an assessment of the validity of the data. The Government further intends to develop and pilot a version of the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) generic skills assessment instrument in 2012, with a view to implementing an Australian CLA nationally from 2013, and publishing the results on the My University website from that year onwards. As is the case with the UES results, decisions about how institutional CLA results will be reported publicly will be taken following completion of the trial. The Government is also reviewing the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS) to determine whether changes are needed to its design and administration to minimise duplication and maximise the coherence of the Australian higher education performance measurement framework. Institutions’ Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) Graduate Destination Survey (GDS) results are also to be made publicly available through the My University website from 2012.

In its submission the University raised the following key issues:

  1. That the return on the substantial investment that has been committed to the exercise is likely to be poor for the both the Government and the sector.
  2. That the creation of additional national survey data sets will, on its own, do little to improve quality.
  3. That unless the performance measurement proposals are accompanied by meaningful increases in levels of base funding per student and targeted funding to pursue enhancement strategies, it will be a very expensive measurement exercise that is likely to stifle creative teaching and curriculum development.

The University also repeated its reservations about the utility of standardised testing of the generic skills of students in a university context, and they way that it is proposed that the resulting data will be used on the My University website.

The University’s submission, dated 17 February 2012, is available here.

Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 - January 2012

The Australian Government introduced the Defence Trade Control Bill to Parliament in November 2011. The Bill seeks to give effect to a treaty between the Australian and United States' governments concerning defence trade cooperation. It provides for controls on intangible transfers (e.g. demonstration, email, fax, internet) of information about technology and services related to items on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL). If enacted into law the Bill would also create a registration and permit regime for the brokering of DSGL goods, technology and related services; and create criminal offences and penalties for breaches of the law.

The Bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on 10 November 2011. The University’s brief submission to the inquiry, dated 31 January 2012, complements the submission made by Universities Australia on behalf of all Australian universities.

In its submission the University expressed its keen interest in ensuring that the Bill strikes an appropriate balance between preventing the misuse of sensitive technology in the interests of national security, and allowing Australian university education and research to prosper. The University expressed concern that as presented to Parliament the legislation would be likely to result in very onerous, and potentially unworkable, administrative obligations for universities, which could potentially hinder the University’s capacity to pursue its normal teaching and research activities.

On 2 March 2012 the Senate Committee held a public hearing into the Bill. The full transcript of the hearing is available through the committee website. Representatives of Universities Australia gave evidence, recommending that the Bill not be passed until appropriate safeguards for research and educational activities were included in the primary legislation and proposed supporting legislative instruments.

At that hearing Universities Australia was asked to provide answers to a series of questions on notice from committee members. These included a request to provide written case studies demonstrating the likely impact of the Bill on academic teaching and research.

The University of Sydney worked with Universities Australia and a small group of researchers to provide four such case studies. These are included as the final attachment to the Universities Australia detailed response to the committee’s questions, which is available at the committee website.

Following further consideration of the issues the University decided that there was a need to raise awareness about the potential implications of the Bill for the Australian higher education sector. On 16 March 2012 the Acting Vice-Chancellor wrote to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Chris Evans, with the letter forwarded to other key ministers, agencies and departments with interests in higher education and research. The letter is available here.

Following receipt of Universities Australia’s response to the committee’s questions on notice, representatives of the University of Sydney were invited to appear before the Committee in Parliament House, Canberra, on 21 March 2012.
The Sydney delegation included:
Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor of Molecular Bioscience, Fellow Los Alamos National Laboratory and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Professor Graham Mann, Sydney Medical School

Professor John Canning, Faculty of Science, School of Chemistry

Dr Michael J. Biercuk, Faculty of Science, Australian Research Council Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems

As a result of this hearing the University of Sydney has been asked by the Committee to work with Universities Australia and the Department of Defence to find workable solutions. The full transcript of the hearing will be made available through the committee website in due course.

Not for Profit Regulatory Reforms – January 2012

The Australian Government is pursuing perhaps the most significant reform to the regulation of not for profit and charitable organisations in Australia ever undertaken. Full details about the review and reform process are available here.

As part of these reforms the Government has announced that it will establish an Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) by 1 July 2012. The Commission will determine the charitable status of different organisations for all Commonwealth taxation and other purposes. It will also provide education and support to the sector, and administer a regulatory and reporting framework for the sector.

The University of Sydney and other Australian universities and research organisation are monitoring these developments closely, and engaging with them, in order to ensure that the interests of public not for profit universities are accommodated appropriately.

For example, in May 2012 the University the University collaborated with a group of other universities to provide input on proposed changes to the tax concession arrangements available to not for profit entities. A summary of those particular issues and the sector’s submission are available here.

In December 2011 the Government released for comment an exposure draft of the Bill to establish the ACNC and a discussion paper on what the core governance principles applying to NFPs should be.

The University’s brief submission on these two closely related processes is available here. In summary, the University’s submission stressed the importance of ensuring that the Australian Government’s approach to national regulation of the NFP sector differentiates between various types of organisations. Such an approach should, in the University’s view, reflect the proportionate, risk based, and non-duplicative approach to regulation which is identified in the exposure draft as being central to the proposed legislation and resulting regulatory and governance framework.

Research and Development Tax Incentive Implementation - February 2012

In November 2011 DIISR and AusIndustry jointly released the R&D Tax Incentive Implementation Discussion Paper Realising Effective Compliance Through Guidance and Education seeking feedback from participants in the innovation community - industry, industry associations, universities, research organisations and government – on potential audiences and materials to guide the transition from the previous R&D Tax Concessions to implement the new R&D Tax Incentives to drive the nation’s innovation system through increased research and development.
The discussion paper and background material is available from the AusIndustry site.
The University’s response, dated 6th February 2012, is available here.