Subject: (VET Reforms)


LINDA MOTTRAM: One of the practices of concern around some of these colleges is where they operate under different business names but from one business address and one address offers fee assisted courses using federal funding, VET FEE-HELP, as it’s called, and then the other side of the business, the different name, offers the same course but different pricing and, you know, the claim that some of these operations are absolutely coining it but not getting many students through. Senator Simon Birmingham has been very patiently on the line for us this morning, federal Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon good morning. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Linda and good morning to your listeners.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Now, have I described, well loosely but accurately, what’s going on here?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: You have, Linda and since I came in to this portfolio with responsibility for vocational education and training at the end of last year, I’ve been quite concerned about some unethical practices in the training industry and in particularly in relation to the use of VET FEE-HELP which is the HECS type loan for vocational education
students studying at the higher level, at the diploma type level. We’ve taking a range of measures to try to toughen requirements around those to ensure, as you said in the introduction, the free laptops, the giveaways that they use as inducements to sign people up to a student loan have been banned. We’re strengthening the prerequisite requirements that students need to have before they can be signed on, putting in place the cooling off period to make sure that it’s tougher to get people to sign on and I’ve approached the ACCC to encourage them to have a look at unscrupulous practices and pricing issues that do seem to be emerging and are another area for concern.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Well it’s costing taxpayers, isn’t it? From what I’m seeing of ABC reports, News ltd reports, Fairfax have reported on it, you know, not many students getting through
courses successfully in many cases. Is it a time to do what someone has suggested which is a complete audit of the whole system?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we have seen through the national regulator, we’ve put some $68 million extra in to allowing them to better audit individual training providers, and allow them to target the risky practice so we’re getting them away from the tick-a-box type clients
activities on everybody and their out getting in to the detailed scrutiny of those training providers who seem to be most at risk. I’m certainly driving them to do that, they are responding to complaints and to consumer information on these matters and I’d encourage anybody with any information that is a concern about the operation of a training provider to contact our new complaints hotline which is 133 873 and that will ensure that concerns, whether they’re for national training providers or they’re for consumer law agencies, are passed on to the relevant body for full investigation. 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Ok. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Pleasure, Linda.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Senator Simon Birmingham, the federal Assistant Minister for Education and Training.