Today’s panic stricken amendments in the Senate by the Turnbull Government acknowledge the gross inadequacy of its plan to fix the vocational education crisis.
Despite the legislation being in the Parliament since 15 October – and a Government majority Senate Committee report that said it was perfectly adequate – the Government has now introduced complex new amendments.
It’s two minutes to midnight for the legislation, and the Government has finally realised the truth of what Labor has been saying all along – that this bill is far too weak to address the crisis in the VET sector.
Under the Government’s panicked amendments, if a shonky training college rorted $100 million from the taxpayer in 2015, they could potentially rort another $100 million from the taxpayer in 2016 if the problem had not yet been discovered.
The Minister for Vocational Education chose to treat the Senate with contempt by moving amendments to his own legislation just as it was coming up for debate.
For the second time this week the Abbott-Turnbull Government has sought to ram complex legislation through the Senate without proper scrutiny and to ambush Senators with amendments they have had no time to consider.
The Abbott-Turnbull Government has had two years to deal with the escalating problems of shonky training providers, which have led to an unprecedented crisis in vocational education, and all they can propose is a weak and half-baked response.
The Liberals’ last minute amendments don’t address any of the concerns Labor is seeking to manage in its own amendments:
They do not see the capping of tuition fees for VET courses eligible for VET FEE-HELP.
They do not see a lowering the lifetime limit for VET FEE-HELP loans – halving the limit from $97,728 to $48,864.
They do not ensure loan applications for students are handled by the Department of Education and Training rather than a private college or broker.
In addition, Labor has called on the Turnbull Liberal Government to:
ban or restrict the use of brokers to recruit students to courses funded by VET FEE-HELP; and
establish an industry-funded VET Ombudsman to help protect vulnerable students from exploitation by shonky training colleges.
Neither of these proposals is addressed in the Government’s amendments either.
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.
Labor believes strong action is needed. It is time for this Government to stop treating Senators with contempt and support Labor’s common-sense proposals that will protect students, taxpayers, the economy and the reputation of the sector.