Claims reported on ABC’s 730 last night that colleges were continuing to target vulnerable people using aggressive tactics must prompt the Liberals to finally act to stop the rorting.


Reports claiming that a “gong” goes off each time a “sale” is made in telemarketing centres, like something out of the Wolf of Wall Street which saw dodgy stockbrokers target vulnerable investors, is of great concern.

PETER JENSEN, FORMER CAREERS AUST. EMPLOYEE: We were supposed to sell six to nine diplomas a week and they did range between $16,000 and $22,000. There's leader boards, bells are ringing, gongs are banging. There was a gong all the time, every time somebody got a sale. 

ABC 730, 13 July 2016


MICHAEL ATKIN: Careers Australia is one of the most profitable vocational education providers in the country. Last year it billed the taxpayer for $230 million in student fees.

In May, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took action against the company for breaching consumer law from August, 2013 until April, 2015.

ROD SIMS, ACCC CHAIRMAN: We allege that they sold courses to vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, that they misrepresented the fact that if this course was done, that would help them gain employment, and separately, they didn't let people know that you actually - when signing on for these courses incurred a debt that would stay with you for life.

ABC 730, 13 July 2016


ROD SIMS: Look, I'm exceptionally concerned to hear those allegations and if the undertaking we have is being breached in either letter or spirit, then we've got the capacity to take stronger action.

ABC 730, 13 July 2016


The action by the ACCC that has occurred to date has only occurred because of the pressure from Labor and the media.  Last year the Liberals put through rushed and ill-considered legislation which allows colleges who obtained large amounts of taxpayer funds through VET FEE-HELP in 2015 to continue to obtain the same huge amounts of taxpayer funds to prop up their businesses in 2016.


Fundamentally, these measures have not stopped the inappropriate business practices.


Ministers Birmingham and Ryan are obviously completely out of their depth and unable to stop unscrupulous behaviour in the sector.  The Liberals’ gross mismanagement of the VET FEE-HELP loans scheme has seen it escalate from $699 million in 2013 to $1.7 billion in 2014 and to over $3 billion for 2015. 


Labor has proposed a series of strong, sensible measures to stop the rot.  There has to be a crackdown to protect the reputation of Australian vocational education and training.


Last year Labor proposed a Vocational Education and Training Ombudsman to oversee the sector and protect students.  The Government agreed to establish an Ombudsman but Ministers Birmingham and Ryan were obviously too busy planning Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership to put an Ombudsman in place.


Labor has proposed an $8,000 per student cap on loans (with exemptions for legitimate high cost courses) to stop the massive price gouging of students and break the business model of shonky providers.  The Liberals have consistently bagged this proposal and continued to sit on their hands.


Labor also proposed properly regulating the use of brokers.


Enough is enough.  The Liberals care more about their own internal chaos than they do about vulnerable students. 


They must adopt Labor’s strong, sensible measures to break the business model of shonks and sharks and protect students.


Training our future workforce for good jobs must be paramount in the sector – not sales “gongs” and massive profits.


It is time the gong tolled on shonky behaviour targeting vulnerable students and exploiting taxpayer funds.

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