The Liberals have today acknowledged the gross inadequacies of their own legislation and partially re-regulated the vocational education and training (VET) sector, in stark contrast to the approach they have taken in attempting to deregulate the university sector.
The Liberals have also accepted that the VET sector needs an industry-funded Ombudsman, a position that Labor and many stakeholders in the VET sector have been consistently calling for.
Today’s legislation is a step in the right direction but does not go anywhere near far enough.
In the last week of Parliament for the year, we’ve seen a mess of half-baked measures from the Liberals, who have finally realised that a substantial response to the shonks and sharks rorting the VET system is long overdue.
After two years of blaming, blustering and scapegoating, what the Liberals needed to do was see sense and heed the calls from Labor and stakeholders to cap tuition fees for courses funded by VET FEE-HELP.
Industry experts and peak bodies have been calling on the Abbott-Turnbull Government for months to act like a mature government and address this escalating crisis:
“You have got to cap prices otherwise people can really rort the system”
[Professor Bruce Chapman, The Age, 10 November]
“Students seem to be immune to price so it’s important for the government to send a price signal”
[Rod Camm, Australian Council for Private Education and Training, The Age, 10 November]
“An Ombudsman would provide a consumer-focused complaints handling process for students and providers to complement the National Complaints Training Hotline. The Training Hotline provides a vehicle to receive complaints – not deal with them.”
[Australian Council for Private Education and Training, submission to Senate Inquiry into the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015]
Labor has called on the Government to act, the sector has called on the Government to act, experts have called on the Government to act and students have called on the Government to act.
For two years, students have been left with massive VET FEE-HELP debts after signing up for poor-quality courses and Abbott-Turnbull Government has been sitting on its hands, letting the shonks and sharks prey on Australia’s most vulnerable.
The Liberals’ stubborn refusal to accept Labor’s strong and measured proposal to cap fees has created a real risk that course fees will continue to skyrocket.
Labor believes strong action is needed. We will continue to hold the Abbott-Turnbull Government to account for its chaotic management of VET policy.