Labor supports increased transparency regarding student loans.
Labor Senators strongly oppose the ongoing cuts and lack of action to address underlying flaws in the vocational education and training system, as identified by witnesses in this and other recent inquiries.
Labor Senators recognise there is urgent work needed to ensure we have a world-class post-secondary education and training system.
Effective vocational education is essential to the nation’s economic and social prosperity. Despite its critical role in providing the conditions for prosperity, the government has, over its time in office, cut $3 billion from vocational education and apprenticeships, with additional cuts in the 2018-19 Budget of $270 million over the forward estimates.
Fiddling at the edges of the current system will not address the profound problems that undermine vocational education and training and consequentially the productive performance and international competitiveness of our economy.
Labor supports transparency relating to all government student loans and the ability to better track behaviour, monitor performance and regulate associated standards.
However, the government continues to fail to address the inequities that have grown as student loans have expanded, rent seeking has increased and educational costs have been shifted onto young people, including to apprentices and trainees.
The government did nothing for years to address the rorting and profiteering of the VET FEE-HELP scheme by dishonest for-profit providers which targeted students and saddled them with unfair debt.
Despite evidence of runaway usage and corrupt behaviour by for-profit providers in 2015, Careers Australia, which had already received $400 million in Commonwealth backed loans, continued using a business model explicitly designed to extract course fees without providing training. From 2016, after the government’s attempt to reform the system, they received a further $200 million from the Commonwealth before declaring bankruptcy in 2017. This had a profound effect on young Australians seeking to increase their employability through education and training.
The government failed to, in a timely manner, to stem the corrupt practices of unscrupulous for-profit training providers allowing the practices to continue to wreak damage on individual students and the reputation of the sector, long after it was clear the system was being abused.
Labor notes the concerns raised by industry, peak industry bodies, unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions in relation to government’s failure to guarantee funding through the Skilling Australians Fund.
Labor Senators call on the government to adopt Labor’s policy and undertake a comprehensive and systematic review of the student loan system as part of a root and branch inquiry into the post-secondary education system. Only then can the underlying problems in the vocational education and training system, and the associated funding inequities, be brought to light and resolved.
Senator Gavin MarshallSenator Deborah O'Neill
Senator the Hon Doug Cameron