PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Shonks and sharks in vocational education.
SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: I’m very, very concerned about the blowout in the cost of our vocational education program and the failure of the government to deal with the widespread rorting of the loan program. This has seen the costs of the program increase by 100 percent in one year; where we have seen the number of students being enrolled in these programs increase by 100 percent; where we are seeing the rates of loans increase by 100 per cent in one year. Now, these are all things that are happening under this government.
We have had three ministers responsible for this program in the life of this government. They have all talked big. Two have failed dismally and the third seems to know as little about the vocational education system as he does about the parliamentary processes which have been uncovering the rorts and abuses of students in the vocational education system in this country.
Now Labor says turn off the tap.
Stop these rorts by stopping companies getting access to these loan programs, which provide the fuel for the abuses and the shonky arrangements that have been entered into by vocational colleges, which are undermining the skills program for this nation. A program that we desperately need to ensure that people are being properly trained for jobs to be able to cope with the challenges of the future. This was a scheme that was designed to encourage people to get more training, not for companies to rip off the taxpayer and abuse students in the way that we have seen.
Now the Government has made changes to the scheme in March. They made some announcements, those announcements were never enforced. We still have companies running around, enrolling people outside Centrelink offices, enrolling people from very disadvantaged backgrounds who have no hope whatsoever of ever securing a diploma, but have of course signed themselves up for massive debts.
Massive debts, which we now see with a lifetime loan limit under this scheme of $100,000. Of course, we have also seen fees increase dramatically by over 150 per cent and we have seen the pass rate of these colleges being so small that in some cases there are occasions where many hundreds of people have been enrolled in a college and very, very few people have passed. The company has therefore received over $35 million worth of government payments but only had 30 people pass to get a diploma.
So, we now are now getting one million dollar diplomas under this government and what we are seeing is a government that has been desperate to pursue the $100,000 degree for universities and wants to deregulate the university system, so that we will see the same sorts of rorts occurring in universities if they are successful.