Today the Senate has established an inquiry into the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 to examine the measures proposed to protect vulnerable students from shonky training colleges.
This follows the Turnbull Liberal Government’s stubborn refusal to adopt Labor’s strong, common sense measures to protect vulnerable students from shonky training colleges and voting down amendments that would have provided additional protections for students and the taxpayer.
While Labor is deeply concerned about the short timeframe of the inquiry, Labor encourages stakeholders to make submissions to the inquiry. Submissions are due by 20 November 2015.
There’s no doubt this legislation needs to be amended in the Senate.
Labor’s focus in this inquiry will be on our proposals to establish an industry funded Ombudsman, further protections for students when taking out loans and capping student fees and VET FEE-HELP loan amounts.
This week Sharon Bird MP put forward an amendment in detail in the House of Representatives to require a legislated student debt opt-in process to protect them from high pressure sales tactics. The student would correspond directly with the Department of Education when signing up for a VET FEE-HELP loan.
The Liberals voted down this common sense measure as well as blocking Labor’s proposal to establish an industry funded Ombudsman and calls for the Australian National Audit Office to lift the priority of the audit into the VET FEE-HELP program.
The Liberal Government has had two years to put measures in place to protect students yet they have merely tinkered around the edges which has allowed the shonks and sharks to continue to prey on vulnerable students.
The Senate Inquiry will allow stakeholders to put forward their ideas on measures to weed out the shonks and sharks that are ripping off vulnerable students.
Labor calls on the Turnbull Liberal Government to engage constructively and use the expertise and knowledge of stakeholders in the sector to help restore the reputation of Australia’s vocational education and training sector.