Despite two years of escalating problems with shonky training providers inducing an unprecedented crisis in vocational education, the Turnbull Liberals can only offer a weak and half-baked response.
Today the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee tabled its report into the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP) Bill 2015.
Additional comments from Labor Senators have highlighted that the current legislation is inadequate to stop the shonks and protect vulnerable people.
The Abbott/Turnbull Government must to turn off the tap of Government VET FEE-HELP assistance for the dodgy providers who are under suspicion of unconscionable conduct.
This report follows the news last week that one private college is going into voluntary administration, four have been deregistered by the industry regulator and the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is launching legal action against a further two colleges.
The Australian National Audit Office has also foreshadowed a performance audit of VET FEE-HELP as part of its 2015-2016 work program.
Labor Senators have recommended that the Senate support tougher amendments to deal with issues such as capping tuition fees, reducing lifetime VET FEE-HELP loan limits and improving measures to strengthen student protection when entering into a VET FEE-HELP loan.
Labor will move the following strong and sensible amendments to the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP reform) Bill:
The capping of tuition fees for VET courses eligible for VET FEE-HELP;
A lowering the lifetime limit for VET FEE-HELP loans – halving the limit from $97,728 to $48,864;
Ensuring loan applications for students are handled by the Department of Education and Training rather than a private college or broker;
In addition Labor is calling on the Turnbull Liberal Government to:
Ban or restrict the use of brokers to recruit students to courses funded by VET FEE-HELP;
Give the Minister the power to suspend payments to a private college under investigation; and
Establish an industry-funded VET Ombudsman to help protect vulnerable students from exploitation by shonky training colleges.
The Abbott/Turnbull Government has had two years to act to stop the shonks and sharks from abusing the system but they have failed to stop the rorts.
As we go into a new study year, with students signing up for courses in 2016, it is imperative that students have confidence that they are receiving good quality training for their future employment.
Labor believes strong action is needed and urges the Liberal Government to stop being obstinate and support Labor’s common-sense proposals that will protect students, the taxpayer, the economy and the reputation of the sector.
The Minister can’t keep taking the childish “it wasn’t me” approach. He needs to work with Labor to put in place strong measures to protect students and the sector.