Comments this morning by the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Senator Scott Ryan, once again show the Liberals are incapable of fixing the $3 billion VET FEE-HELP mess that they have allowed to occur.
Senator Ryan is doing exactly the same as his three predecessors have - absolutely nothing, even though the Minister has the means to act.
Labor established the necessary controls to protect the system by creating the national VET regulator in 2011 and by making amendments to the Higher Education Support Act in 2012 and early 2013.
These amendments included significant Ministerial powers to revoke or suspend providers' VET FEE-HELP approval, under the quality and accountability requirements.
Those powers exist to this day, but a procession of Abbott-Turnbull Government Ministers have failed to deploy them to enforce the strict quality and accountability requirements put in place by Labor.
They have simply sat on their hands, lifting them only to wave the rorters through, while denying all responsibility.
The fact is the Abbott-Turnbull Government had the data from early 2014 on emerging threats to the integrity of the VET system and the wellbeing of students. But it elected to ignore that advice, effectively declaring open season on the VET FEE-HELP system by profiteers masquerading as trainers.
While Minister after Minister have spent their days blaming Labor for their own mismanagement, billions of taxpayer dollars flew out the door to line the pockets of unscrupulous operators.
Senator Ryan has no plan for fixing the VET FEE-HELP mess, no plan for apprenticeships and no plan for TAFE. Just negligence and lame excuses.
As recently as last weekend, the Liberals boasted about the billions of dollars of taxpayers money they've wasted in the VET FEE-HELP scheme, while hiding the $2.75 billion they cut out of skills, training and apprenticeships.
The contrast with Labor’s position at this election could not be clearer:
- A Shorten Labor Government will act decisively and immediately by introducing a loan cap of $8,000 a year in the VET FEE-HELP program to stop the huge waste of taxpayers’ money, to prevent price gouging of students and to improve training.
- Labor will establish a VET ombudsman, and will conduct a full, evidence-based review of the vocational education and training system in order to build a stronger sector and weed out dodgy providers and student rip-offs.
- Labor will ensure a proportion of the jobs on major federally-funded projects are delivered as apprenticeships. One in 10 jobs on Labor’s priority infrastructure projects filled by Australian apprentices. This will create 2,600 new apprenticeship places for young workers seeking a job and real skills.
- Labor will also establish an Apprenticeships Connect search portal and appoint a dedicated Apprentice Advocate.
- Labor's National Priority Plan for TAFE, including a funding guarantee, consolidates TAFE as the public provider within the VET sector, ensuring TAFE’s viability and strength.