Regional communities brimming with potential

Business Council of Australia

Australia’s regions are brimming with potential to drive a fresh wave of innovation but only businesses investing can unleash that capacity, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“As Australia’s political leaders meet in Cairns for COAG tomorrow they will have the opportunity to hear the same message from the region’s workers and employers that we have heard: communities want to lock in new investment, growth and jobs.

“Business leaders have travelled across Australia – and were in Cairns a fortnight ago – to listen to what regional communities want and need.

This is a collective responsibility and there are a range of things we can do right now to drive a fresh wave of prosperity such as improving planning, invigorating vocational education and the skills system, fixing the unnecessary burdens created by red tape and rolling out critical infrastructure that will create really strong communities.

“The best way to ensure Australians in regional areas can get the new jobs they want is by boosting innovation, investment and improving the skills system and infrastructure planning.

“Employers are committed to working with regional communities and federal and state leaders to invest in new projects, new jobs and higher wages.

“Employers are also committed to working with federal and state leaders to take a comprehensive approach to regional planning and delivering a better skills system for all Australians.

“We need to look at the whole economy in a region and say, ‘what are the strengths of that community, what are its natural advantages, what are its competitive advantages, and what is it that’s going to make that community and region prosper even more.

“Whenever we travel through regional Australia we see big and small businesses working together to create opportunities for their communities.

“These are the types of relationships that are going to make our regions even stronger, create jobs and higher living standards for all Australians.

“We want to give regional Australia a much louder voice – if we could prioritise infrastructure, a skills agenda, and put a series of investments into regional Australia – it will add to our national prosperity.”

The Business Council has developed a to do list to make regional Australia even stronger.

The to do list:

  • � Audit the strengths and weaknesses of key regional areas.
  • � Target infrastructure dollars to regional centres with the best potential to grow.
  • � Consider incentives such as fast-tracking planning approvals to encourage businesses to set up shop and invest in regional Australia.
  • � Make sure regional centres are connected to other cities with good transport links for people and freight.
  • � Make sure regional Australia has fast and reliable digital connections, including the National Broadband Network.
  • � Urgently reform the post-secondary education and skills system. Remove the cultural and funding bias against vocational education and training by moving to a single funding model for both VET and higher education.
  • � Set up a single information platform so students and workers have a one-stop-shop to find out about jobs in demand, potential earnings, what to study, how long it will take, and what it will cost.
  • � Give every Australian a Lifelong Skills Account to pay for their training and education needs through their working lives, allowing them to choose where, what and when they study.
  • � Create a national apprenticeship system that encourages employers to take on young workers.
/Public Release. View in full here.

Australian expats warned on student debts

Australian graduates living overseas have been warned moving away doesn’t mean they can dodge their student loans, and the tax office intends to remind them.
The Australian Taxation Office announced on Tuesday it would contact people with student debt who leave or are already overseas in the coming months.
ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat said it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving overseas and forget about one’s repayment obligations.
“Moving overseas does not cancel student loan debts and your repayment obligations do not change with your address. Current laws give us the power to pursue these debts overseas,” she said.
Expats with Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts can expect to be contacted.
Ms Foat said it took an average of nine years for people to pay off HELP debts.
“But for Australians who travel overseas and don’t make any repayments, it takes significantly longer,” she said.
Under new rules, Australians with an income contingent loan travelling overseas need to notify the ATO of their new address and lodge an overseas travel notification.
From July 1, anybody earning over $45,881 a year had to start repaying their student loans after the government passed laws cutting the threshold from $55,000.
“Expats should know that once their income reaches the new threshold of $45,881 for 2019/20, they need to be making repayments, just like anyone living in Australia,” Ms Foat said.
As at 31 January, there are over 3.2 million Australians with outstanding student loan debts totalling more than $66 billion.

Escape from country, but not your student loans

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will be contacting Australian expats this year reminding them that leaving Australia doesn’t mean leaving their student loans behind.

As at 31 January, there are over 3.2 million Australians with outstanding student loan debts, totalling over $66 billion. The ATO will be engaging with the Department of Home Affairs to identify those who leave or have already departed Australia. Individuals who leave or have already departed Australia with Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts can expect to be contacted by the ATO in the coming months.

“We know it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving overseas. That’s why we’re reminding expats about obligations they may have forgotten back home,” said Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat.

“On average, it takes someone nine years to pay off their HELP debt. But for Australians who travel overseas and don’t make any repayments, it takes significantly longer.

“Moving overseas does not cancel student loan debts and your repayment obligations do not change with your address. Current laws give us the power to pursue these debts overseas,” Ms Foat said.

Under new rules, Australians with an income contingent loan travelling overseas need to notify the ATO of their new address and lodge an overseas travel notification. They should also report their worldwide income if they earn over $11,470 (AUD). Expats can lodge their tax returns through ATO’s online services via myGov.

“Expats should know that once their income reaches the new threshold of $45,881 for 2019-20, they need to be making repayments, just like anyone living in Australia,” Ms Foat said.

Individuals within Australia who have an income contingent loan are also required to make compulsory repayments against their study or training loan debt. The income threshold for 2019-20 is $45,881. It is important to tell your employer you have a study or training loan debt, so that the correct amount is withheld from your salary or wages.

More information on overseas repayments:

More information on study and training support loans:

Details of the ATO’s data matching strategies are published at

Accessing myGov from overseas

If you can’t receive security codes by SMS to your Australian mobile number overseas, before you travel download the ‘myGov Access app’ to update your myGov sign-in option.

If you have a myGov account linked to the ATO and answer a secret question to sign in, you can continue using this option whilst overseas.

If security codes by SMS are switched on but you don’t have access to your Australian mobile number overseas, you will not be able to login your account. You’ll need to create a new myGov account and link to the ATO, you can do this whilst overseas using the ‘myGov Access app’ as your sign-in option.

Income contingent loans include:

Income Contingent loan No. of individuals Amount owed
HELP (Higher Education Loan Program) 2.8 million $62.9 billion
SFSS (Student Financial Supplement Scheme) – scheme closed in 2003 165,409 $2.1 billion
SSL (Student Start-up Loan) 161,768 $406 million
ABSTUDY SSL 3,119 $7.2 million
TSL (Trade Support Loan) 88,926 $631.6 million
VSL (Vocational Education & Training student loan) from 1 July 2019 n/a n/a

Top 5 international destinations for Australians with income contingent loans

Top 5 Country Number of Australians
1 United Kingdom 12,296
2 United States 5,569
3 New Zealand 2,632
4 Canada 2,444
5 Hong Kong 2,111
/Media Release. View in full here.

Skills, not job titles, are the new metric for the labour market

The Shanghai city skyline
Shanghai … a training pool for other regions.

The rise of tech is currently transforming the labour market, leading to the automation of some jobs and tasks on the one hand and the emergence of new kinds on the other. Proactively preparing for this new reality requires an in-depth, granular understanding of these changes and their impact on jobs and employment. LinkedIn data is able to provide additional insight on this by taking a skills-based approach to labour-market analysis.

Skills are the new currency on the labour market. Skills indicate demand and supply at a more nuanced level than occupations, whose required expertise and skills are changing increasingly quickly, and degrees, which are often already outdated by the time they are obtained. The current pace of change requires following the direction of a skills-based, rather than degree-based labor market, which is a much more dynamic variable. Using skills as a variable of analysis provides a powerful tool in helping policymakers prepare for the future while building resilience in the present day.

Based on these shifts, LinkedIn has developed the Skills Genome — a new metric, which allows us to harness that analytical power to gain a more granular understanding of labour market trends and developments. Using skills information provided by LinkedIn’s Economic Graph, a digital representation of the global economy based on data generated from 630 million members with more than 35,000 skills globally, the metric allows us to define and analyse the unique skills profile of various segments of the labor market. We can use it to identify those skills that are more prevalent in one segment compared to others. These segments can include a geography (e.g. a city), an industry, a job type (e.g. data scientists), or a population (e.g. women).

In China, for example, we examined the dynamics of digital skills across two of the most economically active and open regions: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and Yangtze River Delta. In a report on digital economy and talent development in the former, we found that China’s Greater Bay Area has an overall net inflow of talent equipped with digital skills, and Shenzhen is a digital talent hub in the Greater Bay Area. We also found that talent in the region mainly majored in finance and technical fields of study, and possesses general-purpose skills such as project management and leadership, with a relatively low level of integration of digital skills. Soft skills like management, leadership and negotiation rank higher in this region, regardless of high-level talents or digital talents.

In a similar report for the Yangtze River Delta Region, we found that Shanghai plays an important role in training and developing junior-level talent with diversified skills to support other regions. We also found that the top 10 fastest growing positions in the past four years are all considered intermediate and senior management positions covering customer service, marketing, finance, products, operations and other functions. Skills that have seen the sharpest increase can be divided into four categories: (1) functional skills such as marketing and customer service; (2) soft-power skills such as leadership; (3) digital skills such as social media; and (4) value-added skills such as English. The categories of skills indicate that the Yangtze River Delta region is increasingly open to the wider world and has become increasingly linked to digital opportunities.


PM sets new goals for digital skills

PM sets new goals for digital skills

Scott Morrison: Productivity focus on building better digital skills across the economy

In his first major domestic speech since the May 18 federal poll, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to improve Australia’s digital skills, and to drive the uptake of new technologies within the nation’s financial system.

Mr Morrison outlined for the first time the government’s response to recommendations of the Joyce Review into Australia’s vocational education and training system, which was handed to the government in March.

The review, led by former New Zealand minister for tertiary education, skills and employment Steven Joyce, pointed to a need for VET courses to be updated to address skills gaps in emerging industries such as advanced manufacturing, information and communication technology, and cybersecurity.

“The Review acknowledges the good work undertaken in the sector so far, but says VET needs to adapt so it can support important and emerging industries and become a first choice for students who want to pursue technical careers,” the Prime Minister said.

“We believe that learning through a vocational education is just as valuable as a university degree, so we want to transform the way we deliver skills, support employers and fund training.”

Mr Morrison said initial steps would include setting up a National Skills Commission and a new National Careers Institute “to give people the information they need to decide their future careers and the best pathways to get them into a job.”

He said government would create up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years in priority skills shortage areas through increasing apprenticeship incentives.

Small Business minister Michaelia Cash and assistant minister Steve Irons have been appointed to oversee these implementations, Mr Morrison said.

Speaking to the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, the Prime Minister also pledged to focus attention on boosting competition and technology adoption in the financial services sector a pet issue that Mr Morrison has pressed since his time as Treasurer.

Mr Morrison said Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Jane Hume would drive changes in the financial services sector, including the introduction of Open Banking, the new Consumer Data Right; as well as encouraging wider uptake of the New Payments Platform across the economy; establishing a mandatory comprehensive credit reporting system; and finalising a digital trade benchmark agreement with Singapore by the end of the year.

“With greater information, new entrants and small lenders, including innovative FinTech firms, will be encouraged to compete for small business and retail customers,” Mr Morrison said.

“The mutuals sector, including customer owned banks and cooperatives, will also be able to compete better with our legislation lifting restrictions on their ability to raise capital being passed just before parliament rose.

“More broadly, our Government will continue to advocate strongly for a rules-based and open global trading environment that supports digital trade, builds trust and confidence in the online environment, and reduces barriers.”

Business welcomes Prime Minister’s emphasis on workplace relations and skills

Australia’s largest and most representative business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to review Australia’s Industrial Relations system and reform Vocational Education and Training.

“It is fitting that the Prime Minister set out an agenda to lift productivity, with an emphasis on workplace relations and skills, at a Chamber of Commerce event in Western Australia today,” Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said.

“During the Federal Election the Australian Chamber, on behalf of our chamber of commerce and industry association members, called for collaboration not conflict in workplace relations and action to address the collapse in skills. These issues are critically important for business, particularly small businesses which make up 98% of all business and employ over five million Australians.

“We agree with the Prime Minister that reforms to vocational training are a high priority. We must address the real funding decline across the entire system, as well as the collapse in apprenticeship numbers.

“This issue can only be solved through all Governments working cooperatively with industry, so it is good to hear it is a first-order issue for COAG.

“We look forward to working with the Minister for Employment, Skills, and Small & Family Business Michaelia Cash, as she implements decisions made in the Budget to establish a National Skills Commission and Career Institute.

“We strongly support the Prime Minister’s announcement to take a fresh look at the workplace relations system.

“Our members have told us repeatedly that the current system is a minefield of unnecessary processes, procedures, and legalities which frustrate everyone, employers and employees alike.

“We need practical workplace relations reforms, so that employers and employees can find more productive ways of working and create the rewarding and skilled jobs of the future.

“We cannot afford for Australia’s workplace relations framework to remain a barrier to improved competitiveness and productivity.

“The network of businesses we represent will make a strong business case for sensible improvements. We look forward to working with the Minister for Industrial Relations, Attorney-General Christian Porter, to ensure our workplace relations system encourages job creation, delivers job flexibility for both employers and employees, and is simpler and more practical to use – especially for small businesses.

“We encourage the Parliament to support policies that make Australia a better place to do business – so that Australians can have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire. “

The Australian Chamber is Australia’s largest network of employers, speaking for over 300,000 businesses employing millions of Australians in every sector of the economy, in every corner of Australia. Our Small Business is a Big Deal campaign gives voice to what small businesses need from the federal government, and our Getting on with Business recommends ways to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire

/Public Release. View in full here.

Tasmanian man fined $200k by federal court for running fake VET courses vows to appeal

A Tasmanian man who was found by the Federal Court of Australia to have run a series of illegitimate vocational training courses says he plans to appeal the decision.

Key points:

  • The Federal Court found Leon Vere King operated a company that was not a registered training organisation and issued 31 VET statements of attainment
  • It found his actions could “fray” public confidence in the VET sector
  • King said he was “bewildered” by the events and that he would have been “better of being a criminal”

Launceston man Leon Vere King was last week ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and court costs for teaching unauthorised VET courses in first aid and traffic management in the state’s north.

The Federal Court of Australia heard participants were issued certificates that featured a nationally recognised training logo and provider numbers for genuine registered training organisations.

The judgement found the company King was operating under, Crown Consulting and Auditing, was not a registered training organisation.

It found King had contravened the Act 33 times over a two-and-half year period between May 2014 and September 2016 when he issued 31 VET statements of attainment.

Mr King said he was acting in “true and honest good faith” at the time his business was in operation.

“The ramifications for this have been so great, I would have been better off being a criminal,” he said.

“It would have been less of a penalty on me and my family … they’re the ones who have really been crucified in this.”

Mr King said he felt “bewildered” when the certification of the registered training organisation his company was operating under was thrown into doubt.

“I immediately contacted the companies concerned asking them not to issue the certificates and refunded the money,” he said.

Conduct ‘frays public confidence’ in VET sector

In his judgment, Federal Court Justice Nye Perram said the certificates were invalid and misleading and had the potential to erode credibility in the VET sector.

“These purported to be, but were not, VET statements of attainment,” it read.

Justice Perram said there was “no doubt” King was motivated by financial gain and that his actions had the potential to “undermine public confidence in the vocational training sector”.

“The conduct in question not only frays public confidence in the legitimacy of VET courses, but also in the certificates of attainment,” he said.

The judgment found 10 employees from shipbuilding company, Incat received parts of an unauthorised first aid course in 2014 by King’s company.

In 2016, King also taught parts of a traffic management course to 11 people employed by employment agency, Max Solutions.

In a statement, Max Solutions said it was satisfied the matter had been dealt with appropriately by the courts.

“MAX Solutions identified this organisation was not accredited under Australian Skills Quality Authority guidelines and therefore no payment was made at the time,” it read.

“Upon identifying this serious issue, we immediately arranged for equivalent training by an accredited training organisation to our impacted customers.”

Justice Perram said it was important to deter King from engaging in the same conduct again, as well as others who might be tempted to conduct unauthorised courses or to issue fake certificates of attainment.

He also expressed concern that false accreditation could go undetected given the size of the VET sector.

The judgement said invoices totalling more than $7,000 had been issued, some of which had since been withdrawn and refunded.

Familiar faces in new Australian gov’t ministry

A week after the government’s surprise re-election, Australian international educators have received further continuity after the announcement that all but one position overseeing the country’s education sectors remain unchanged.

Familiar faces around Canberra, after ministerial positions overseeing education remain largely unchanged. Photo: Unsplash.Familiar faces around Canberra, after ministerial positions overseeing education remain largely unchanged. Photo: Unsplash.

Announced by prime minister Scott Morrison, the new cabinet sees Dan Tehan retain the education portfolio and Michaelia Cash remain as employment and skills minister, a move welcomed by the higher and vocational education sectors.

“The coming three years presents Australia with a real opportunity”

“We see continuity as paramount in what are turbulent geopolitical times when it has never been more important to ensure policy stability in the areas of defence, trade and education,” said chief executive of the Group of EightVicki Thomson.

“All portfolios the Go8 contributes to by way of research, international engagement and educating the future workforce required to underpin our national economy.”

The focus will likely remain the same for both educators and the government

The only change in terms of education, Steve Irons was announced as assistant minister for vocational education, training and apprenticeships within the employment and skills portfolio. He replaced Karen Andrews, who retained her science and technology portfolio.

“The coming three years presents Australia with a real opportunity to

restructure the tertiary education system so that there is greater integration between the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors,” said Troy Williams, chief executive of Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia.

“Quality is very much front and centre of ITECA’s culture and that of our members; however, it’s clear that there is a significant degree of regulatory overreach that’s doing little to support quality student outcomes.”

With ministerial positions overseeing education remaining consistent, the focus of the past eighteen months will also likely remain the same for both educators and the government in the near future.

Ongoing government directives have seen an increased focus on regional education, including boosting the number of international students outside of metropolitan areas, as well as concerns around English proficiency.

The Regional Universities Network welcomed Tehan’s reappointment, with chair Helen Bartlett saying the organisation looked forward to the future implementation of the National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy.

Universities Australia, which has been combatting successive funding cuts within the university sector, meanwhile pledged to continue to work towards increasing access to higher education, and reminded Tehan of his comments that it was “the great enabler”.