Introduction and summary
The Australian Greens are deeply committed to a strong, well-funded,
public vocational education and training sector.
It is clear from the evidence presented to the committee the TAFE sector
has been under enormous pressure following policy decisions to open up
government funding to competition from private providers.
Clear themes of serious concern have emerged from the evidence provided,
which are startlingly consistent across sectors, industries and interests.
Major and continuing cuts in government funding to the TAFE sector
around Australia under both Labor and Coalition governments, coupled with the
diversion of substantial public funding from TAFE to private for-profit RTOs
under the contestability model, has resulted in a funding crisis for TAFE
institutes across the country, with major losses of staff, resources and
This has diminished and in many cases removed the TAFE sector's capacity
to provide supported affordable quality vocational training and further
education to individuals, communities and industries across Australia. Given
TAFE is the "bedrock" of Australia's VET system, serious concerns
were raised across all sectors about the future of accessible pathways into
education or quality skills training in this country.
The increasing of student fees; introduction of limited and completely
inadequate learning support funding; and imposition of a limited once-only
publically funded 'training entitlement' for each student has rendered VET
qualifications out of reach for many students, and especially those students
who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The substantial amounts of public funding now available to private
providers as contestable funding has resulted in a 'explosion' of private
providers delivering cheap-to-run qualifications that are not meeting skills
needs of employers or students.
Evidence presented to the committee described the commercialisation of
VET as resulting in a system not led by the broader needs of industry but by
private, for-profit education providers, with potential students being
ruthlessly marketed cheap-to-run products for the prime purpose of maximising those
A lack of regulatory oversight has resulted in a substantial proportion
of low-quality high-risk private for-profit businesses being registered as RTOs
and delivering substandard qualifications that are of no use to either employers
or the student. This has resulted in students 'wasting' their once-only
training entitlement; the skills needs of employers and industry are not being
met; wasting of considerable public funding that is urgently needed in our TAFE
systems; and a diminished confidence in the VET system as a whole.
The unequivocal underlying cause for these urgent and serious problems
is the contestability model of funding for VET provision. The treatment of
skills training and further education, and more specifically of TAFE, as a cost
to be minimised in an open marketplace is antithesis to a thoughtful and
meaningful approach to investment in Australia's learning and training.
While the Committee’s majority report notes evidence from the Australian
Education Union, TAFE teachers, students and business regarding the negative
impact of funding cuts and contestability, the Australian Greens believe its
recommendations do not go far enough in addressing these underlying factors.
Therefore we have provided the following recommendations:
An end to the current model of competitive tendering of
government vocational education and training and a comprehensive public
examination and review of the consequences of full competition on TAFE, including
the impact on the quality of vocational education, levels of student support
and teaching infrastructure, and a reassessment of the case and justification
for a competitive training market.
A complete and rigorous examination of the real costs of the
provision of high quality vocational and further education, including:
technical skills for work,
adult literacy and numeracy,
crucial supporting knowledge and theory,
student support and counselling services,
support for the development of relationships with industry and
support for the development of relationships and partnerships
with universities and schools,
- support for research and innovation,
support for initial qualifications and ongoing professional
development for teachers and staff.
Guaranteed funding for the public TAFE system based on the actual
costs of providing education, and on a funding model that supports a strong and
increased base for capital works, maintenance, infrastructure, and equipment,
and which properly recognises the important role of TAFE in providing
vocational and technical education in areas of high and low demand, in rural
and remote areas and improved access and participation for disadvantaged
The national entitlement to a guaranteed training place should
only be offered at TAFE, it should not be restricted to selected qualifications
or industry areas, and it should be available as many times as a student
The development of improved standards for registration of
training organisations, and the provision of vocational education. The now
defunct National Skills Standards Council made a start on the development of
improved standards, but this work was set in the context of a rapid opening up
of the market under the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development.
This work now needs to be revisited and the standards strengthened and
improved. The current regulatory environment provides no guarantee of quality
for students, nor any mechanism for them to get their money back, or their once
only entitlement back if the provider they attended provided no training, or
was of poor quality. Every provider seeking registration to deliver vocational
education in Australia should have the provision of vocational education as its
As part of the development of improved standards, there must be a
mandated minimum funded duration of learning in all vocational education
qualifications. It is the lack of a mandated minimum which, for example, allows
providers to deliver qualifications over weekends, and then be paid as if they
had delivered the full qualification.
Senator Lee Rhiannon
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page