Today the Senate Education and Employment References Committee convened a public hearing for its inquiry into the operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the hearings highlighted the importance of the Abbott Government’s reforms to the VET sector.

“Labor was responsible for the significant expansion of the VET FEE-HELP scheme in 2012, but failed to introduce a dedicated compliance regime for the scheme, failed to deliver the appropriate national standards for registered training organisations (RTOs), failed to properly fund the regulator and failed to protect students and taxpayers from dodgy providers,” he said.

“Labor’s inaction in the VET sector has most likely cost students, employers, and taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for skills training that failed to deliver real outcomes.”

Senator Arthur Sinodinos is one of the Reference Committee members and said Senator Carr in today’s hearing has been quick to tarnish the reputation of all Australian training organisations, and to ignore the changes the Government has already announced and introduced,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“In contrast to Labor’s failings, the Coalition Government has already taken action to introduce tough new standards for RTOs, and has provided $68 million over four years to bolster the capacity of ASQA to enforce these stronger standards. The Government has also established a national complaints hotline (13 38 73), to make it easier for complaints to be heard and actioned, Senator Birmingham said.

“The Government’s reforms, including the ban on sign-up inducements like free i-Pads, ending the up-front levying of a full debt load regardless of student progression through a course, and minimum educational pre-requisites, will save taxpayers an estimated $16 billion that would otherwise have been lost under Labor's regulatory model.

“Labor offers no solutions of its own, and has yet to commit to supporting the Government’s legislation which will implement new measures starting 1 January 2016 that will further strengthen VET FEE-HELP and protect students, taxpayers and the reputation of the Australian VET system from the actions of a minority of unscrupulous providers or their brokers.

“These reforms mean we can ensure the VET system, and substantial taxpayer funding, are focused where they should be, on delivering the skills students and employers for the jobs that will boost Australia’s competitiveness and productivity.”

Media contact: Caitlin Keage 0427 729 987