Labor will today call on the Government to accelerate the introduction of consumer protections for vulnerable people being exploited by unscrupulous training providers.
Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, will move an amendment to the Government’s Bill in the House which will take up some of the issues already identified in the interim report of the Senate Inquiry into The operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia which was tabled yesterday.
Labor calls on the Government to request the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to develop national consumer advisory information on the VET sector and for the Government to explore all options for increased consumer protection.
There have been regular, persistent and disturbing media reports about unscrupulous marketing and recruitment practices targeting vulnerable people and signing them up to training courses that may be of poor quality and inappropriate to their needs.
These reports often identify a real problem with people being misled about the actual debt they will be incurring with the Commonwealth Government through the use of VET FEE-HELP. Many of these stories identify people having debts over $20,000 without even finishing the course and gaining a qualification.
“It is clear that this appalling exploitation of people who simply want to improve themselves and their chance at getting a job is prevalent in our communities,” Sharon Bird said.
“We have to take effective action to make sure the message gets out to people before they are trapped into debts that cause them significant distress and hardship and to provide advice to those who have already been caught up in this situation.”
The ACCC has consumer information available for many sectors that have been the subject of exploitation in the past and Labor has requested that a similar campaign is developed for the vocational education sector. Revelations of over 600 complaints to the NSW Office of Fair Trading about unscrupulous providers underlines the need for urgent action.
“Young Australians deserve action to safeguard their rights, and to ensure that they have access to the best quality training,” Senator Kim Carr said.
“This is a Government big on announcement and slow on action. A Government which has spent more time on writing press releases about dodgy providers, than actually doing something to drive the shonks out of the industry.”
The Minister must act now to ensure that consumers are aware that these practices are occurring so that they can make informed decisions about who they choose to train with and are not manipulated by unscrupulous marketing and recruitment practices.