As more and more submissions to the Liberals’ VET FEE-HELP discussion paper are released by the experts of the sector, one underlying message from the last three years is clear - there is a crisis in the sector which has been ignored and mismanaged for far too long under this government.
Reform of the VET sector is still nowhere to be seen, with the sector receiving its fifth minister is just over three years.
The portfolio has been downgraded to an Assistant Minister and the responsibility for the VET FEE-HELP crisis handed back to Education Minister Simon Birmingham – the same Minister who oversaw the $3 billion blowout in VET FEE-HELP debt during 2014 when he was a junior Minister.
Both Labor and education experts told the revolving door of Coalition Ministers that the sector was at crisis point, but still there was no effective action to crack down on the shonks and the sharks.
As the Department spends more time briefing yet another incoming Minister and re-briefing an old one, the exploitation of young, disabled, Indigenous and marginalised Australians continues, and the waste of taxpayers’ dollars continues unabated.
The Turnbull Liberals took no plan for vocational education to the voters at the last election. All they had was their legacy of a $2.75 billion cut from the skills portfolio, including $1 billion from apprentices and a VET FEE-HELP crisis.
This is why the sector needs a full root and branch review as proposed in Labor’s policy. NCVER’s most recent report supports this approach, emphasising the large and complex nature of the sector.
Labor also proposed a series of strong and sensible immediate measures that would stop the rot.
There has to be a crackdown to protect the reputation of Australian vocational education and training. The experts know this, Labor knows this, the sector knows this – it seems that only the Liberals do not know this.
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.
With the downgrading of the portfolio to an Assistant Minister role all we are seeing is the waste of more time and more taxpayer’s money, overseen by an even more junior person.