Labor is today calling on the Government, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to act as a matter of urgency following new disturbing reports of “get rich quick” practices in private training providers and their agents.
Today’s reports go beyond unscrupulous marketing and recruitment practices with Victorian Government VET Review head Bruce Mackenzie saying 10 per cent of Victorian providers are under investigation for “material breaches of contract”.
Recent evidence to the Senate inquiry into Private Vocational Education and Training Providers demonstrated that the current system is poorly regulated and its regulators may not be fit for purpose.
The activities of these unscrupulous providers are undermining public confidence in our vocational education system. The cost of their activities is being borne by individual students, Australian taxpayers and industries that are being deprived of the skilled workforce they so desperately need.
If the Assistant Education and Training Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham is now admitting that the system is “susceptible to shonks and fraudsters” then why hasn’t the government fixed the flaws in the two years it has been in power?
Unless the Turnbull Government takes decisive action to weed out these highly unethical rorts of VET FEE-HELP the Australian taxpayer will be left paying the bills.
Fairfax media reports today that brokers are paying up to $800 per ‘sign-up’ for door to door salespeople to target vulnerable Australians – in this case two people with intellectual disabilities who reside in a housing commission unit in the regional Victorian town of Euroa.
The recent Senate inquiry heard similar complaints of unethical behaviour since the government announced changes to the VET FEE-HELP scheme in March.
In May the ACCC announced they were investigating this sort of behaviour but to date we have not seen one training provider penalised. While the Minister has argued that his new National Standards will fix the system, it is clear that these measures are insufficient to solve the problem.
In February ASQA confirmed in Senate Estimates it was investigating 23 providers but to date there have been no reports of training providers being penalised.
It is now time for the ACCC and ASQA to stamp out these practices and send a strong message to the sector that this conduct is unacceptable.
The Turnbull Government must act to weed out these unscrupulous providers from the industry, manage the cost of the Higher Education Loan Program and ensure the current regulator is fit for purpose.